Colum Sands has performed in over thirty countries around the world, confirming the universal appeal for the songs and stories with which he observes the minute and often humorous details of life.
A member of the internationally renowned Sands Family from County Down, Colum established his reputation as a songwriter with the release of his first solo album, Unapproved Road in 1981. Songs like Whatever you say, say nothing, and Almost every Circumstance were soon in the repertoire of artists from Billy Connolly to Maddy Prior and June Tabor.
His second album The March Ditch inspired a special BBC television documentary and songs like The Man with the Cap and Looking the loan of a Spade confirmed his unique ability to observe locally and appeal universally.
On his travels around the world he soon discovered that many of his songs had arrived before him, carried by other singers and in recordings by fellow performers like Andy Irvine, Tommy Makem and Liam Clancy, Roy Bailey, Mick Hanley, Gerard van Maasakkers, Rosemary Woods, Iain Mc Intosh and Enda Kenny.
In 1996 Colum released his third album, All My Winding Journeys, a musical voyage ranging from traditional songs like Jackson Johnson, learned from the singing of his father to originals like The Night is Young, Directions and the title track, his translation to Engish of a Goethe poem on which he was joined by Berlin songstress Scarlett Seeboldt.
In 2000, his first book, “Between the Earth and the Sky” was published and its pages, like Colum’s stage performances, contain a combination of songs and stories which, to quote one critic, “…view the world with balanced, non tribalistic humanity, breaking down all kinds of barriers and leaving behind an optimism and appreciation of the power of the human spirit over adversity.” The book is beautifully illustrated by watercolorist Colum Mc Evoy.
In March 2001 Colum joined Middle Eastern storyteller Sharon Aviv for a tour of Israel and a concert in that country’s first integrated school and village for Jews and Arabs, Neve Shalom. This concert inspired the song The Child who asks you why and Going Down to the Well with Maggie, just two of the songs which appeared on a unique collection of songs and stories, Talking to the Wall, released by Colum and Sharon in 2002.
Colum noted that people in Belfast were asking him if he wasn’t afraid to go to Israel with all the trouble going on over there and then, that people in Israel inquired if he wasn’t afraid to go back to Belfast with all the trouble over there…In response to these and many other questions in each place as to what exactly the problem was, he put pen to paper to record his thoughts on the complexity and yet the simplicity of it all. The result, Skipping History Lesson, was a one-minute summary of human conflict and appeared on his 2003 album The Note that lingers on along with songs of love and life like The Wake Song, Sweeney the Fiddler, Song for Adam and Eve and a live version of Mickey MacConnell’s classic Politician’s Song.
The inclusion of a live track was in response to many requests for a live album and in 2007 the live songs were complemented by the stories which are so much a part of Colum’s performances with the release of Colum Sands Live In Concert, recorded at Clotworthy House in County Antrim. Colum was also appearing in venues much further from home around this time, in 2006 his first concert tour of Australia and New Zealand was a huge success and was followed by a further visits in 2007 and 2009 with appearances at all the major festivals and in venues from Tasmania to Mount Isa.
The endless range of veunes around the world inspired the title track of Colum’s seventh album, Look where I’ve ended up now, released in 2009. From songs inspired by Bedouin activist Nuri Al Okbi (Song for Nuri) to songs from around his own front door in Rostrevor like Beyond the Frame , the album is a wonderful travelogue of people and places encountered by the County Down troubador.
His meetings with fellow musicians like Sinead Stone and Gerard Farrelly from Dublin provided the story which led to Michael’s Orchard while an unlikely encounter with a pair of old boots in New Zealand resulted in Fred Jordan’s Boots in praise of their former owner, English folksinger Fred Jordan. Meetings on the road with Scottish Gaelic singer Maggie MacInnes lead to another fascinating project and a new album released in 2010, The Seedboat, investigating musical and linguistic links between Ireland and Scotland. Following performances on each side of the water that divides the two countries, Colum and Maggie released their bi-lingual album The Seedboat (Bàta an t-Sìl) at Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2010.
Between touring and recording, countless other performers have been introduced to the air waves through Colum’s work as a presenter of BBC Radio Ulster’s Folk club programme, he has also broadcast a series of programmes for BBC Radio 2 and has compiled and presented a series RTE Radio called “Rootin About’.
In May 2012 he presented the highly acclaimed BBC Radio 4 documentary, The First LP in Ireland, tracing the work of early folk collectors in Ireland.
His work in radio and studio production earned him the Living Tradition Award for services to Folk and Traditional Music. Colum has also produced countless albums for traditional singers and songwriters, he also produced four tracks on the Sound Neighbours CD released by the Smithsonian Institute in Washingtom, an album which was short listed for a Grammy Nomination.
“…Colum’s gift is of breaking down cultural barriers through choice words and eloquent music… “
John O’Reagan, Rock ‘n’ Reel
“…a marvelous tongue in cheek sense of humour, Colum Sands is a very talented songwriter with an ear for tuneful melodies and an ability with words which enables him to come up with some wonderful lyrics…”
Ivan Martin, Sunday World
“…a wonderful evening of entertainment. A natural witty storyteller, Colum charmed the audience with his lively and evocative melodies, colloquial lyrics and gentle humorous tales of everyday life in the past and present. Not only that, but the man has a wonderful voice and is no mean guitar picker…”
Jim Brough, Folk on tap