A Review of the Ben Sands CD
"Better Already"

"Better Already"
by Ben Sands

Spring Records (SCD 1050)
copyright Elm Grove Music

This review is written by Dai Woosnam, daigress@hotmail.com, 7/06

This is Ben's third solo CD, and it marks a change of direction in the recording studio. Unlike his previous two offerings, this time he does not rely on songwriting heavyweights like Stan Rogers and Kate Wolf to help bolster his own songs: here he has produced an album of songs all from his own pen.

And does the album seem lightweight by comparison? No, not even remotely.

Because he can really deliver as a songwriter.

As I have said when reviewing Ben's debut solo album, “in the English-speaking Folk world, Ben Sands needs no introduction. So I will spare you all the stuff about his famous Ulster family and his place IN that family in Rostrevor, County Down. I will take it as a given that you know all this: if you don't, then please check out his website”.

Again, for accompaniment, he is joined by some tasty musicians who are always never less than convincing.

The liner notes that accompany the CD are in terms of legibility, his best yet.

But that said, Ben's diction is so good that instead of him reprinting his lyrics, I would have far preferred he chatted to us on what prompted each song, and what the gestation period was for each song etc.

That said, it is a minor “wish”. Most of my wishes were granted with this album. Well-crafted songs, songs that use rhyme and rhythm, written by someone with a gentle and reflective view on humanity and events.

He opens with “Among Friends Again”, Rostrevor's answer to Dylan's “On A Night Like This”. Then “Wish I Had A Penny” a nice sweet song that saw Ben probably have Tom Paxton's “Wish I Had A Troubadour” working overtime in his subconscious when he wrote it.

And then comes one of three very strong songs indeed. “Writing A Song For You” should perhaps be the anthem for all those people (99%?) who cannot write a song like it's a piece of cake. But it is a very subtle and witty work, so on reflection, perhaps it SHOUDN'T be the anthem, because the mass of us will only get depressed as we will never master these skills.

Then, a little later, comes “Fair Exchange” his updating and reworking of Mickey MacConnell's magnificent “The Tinkerman's Daughter”. If it lacks the brooding atmosphere of that masterpiece ­-- the jaunty melody makes that lack inevitable ­-- it contains writing of the highest quality. Try this on for size. He is describing a marriage on a remote farm between a farmer and a woman 20 years his junior:

“Well after six warm months or so the temperature declined
The words got few and far between and passion fell behind
They lived together quietly like two odd socks on the line
And they only pulled together at the milking”.

Dear Reader, whatever way you look at it, that is writing of the highest order.

And the album finishes with the third very strong number, a feel-good song called “Hug”, which has moments of poignancy, moments of Flower Power brotherly love, but above all a sense of sheer POSITIVITY. The perfect note on which to end.

I could HUG him for it.


Dai Woosnam
Grimsby, England

Track List (written by Ben Sands):

  1. Among Friends Again - 3.39
  2. Wish I Had A Penny ­ - 3.31
  3. Writing A Song For You ­ - 4.12
  4. Daisies For Dara/Katie's In Clover ­ - 3.12
  5. Renovation ­ - 2.42
  6. Fair Exchange ­ - 4.24
  7. Better Already ­ - 5.26
  8. Farewell To The Town - 3.18
  9. Wedding Daze ­ - 3.36
  10. I Wonder ­ - 4.35
  11. Hug - 5.31

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