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Album Review

Built on the common experience of tragedy, Tommy Sands (from Northern Ireland) and cellist Vedran Smailovic (from Sarajevo) have been performing together for a few years, culminating in this album. While the theme is tragedy and the recovery from it in both regions of discord, the focus is pretty clearly on the atrocities in Sarajevo. Smailovic is the primary composer of pieces here, though there are numbers from Sands, Pete Seeger, and various traditional and classical works as well. The tone is largely a mournful one, as one would expect, though there are notes of hope built in now and then. The album opens on "Ode to Sarajevo," a chorus piece (which includes Joan Baez); "Bembasa" is built from an old Sephardic work; and Seeger's "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" closes out the opening trio. A waltz that was once played before Archduke Ferdinand's assassination in Sarajevo (opening World War I) returns the focus to Sarejevo, followed by an Albinoni piece played by Smailovic after the bread-line massacre of 1992. Seeger joins in on Music of Healing (surprisingly, not on "Where Have All the Flowers Gone"), working well in combination with Sands. Bosfor is an old Bosnian tune, "Child of 2000" was an early collaboration between the two stars of the album, and "Dilber" returns to the Bosnian theme again. The album finishes on the duo of "Buskers" (written by Sands' brother in tribute to Smailovic before any meetings) and "Laganside," an old Irish love march. The two cultures rarely combine within the structure of a single song here, but instead the styles can change from one to the other relatively seamlessly as tracks switch. The performers are all worth hearing here, and the music is properly nostalgic and heartfelt. The only dry spots involve the use of an electric cello in a couple attempts to update the music a bit for contemporary audiences. Luckily those are rather rare, and the bulk of the album is a wonderful tribute to those lost in civilian attacks and to hope for the future. This is musically excellent and culturally relevant.

Biography

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Not to be confused with the pop singer of the 1950s, Tommy Sands was the prime songwriter with the Sands Family, a group with his five siblings that became one of Ireland's most influential folk groups of the 1960s and '70s. Although the group has limited its touring in the early 2000s to an annual tour of Germany and Ireland, Sands has continued to pave new ground as a solo singer/songwriter...
Full bio
Sarajevo/Belfast, Tommy Sands
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