The National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences has placed "Let The Circle Be Wide" in the Official Ballot of the 2009 Grammy Awards in the traditional folk category.
"Let the Circle Be Wide" Reviews

The latest from the great Tommy Sands, April 4, 2009
By David Fisher
Let the Circle be Wide is the latest and most enjoyable release by Tommy Sands. the Great Bard of the North of Ireland. Tommy is really the Pete Seeger of the Emerald Isle and he and his family have been performing and creating wonderful music for years.

One of Tommy's greatest songs in entitled "Daughters and Sons," so it is appropriate that he is accompanied on this CD by his daughter Moya and his son Fionan, Moya has a lovely voice and plays just about everthig and Fionan is a brilliant instrumentalist, playing, among other things a banolino, a cross between an banjo and a mandolin.

The songs are all melodic, meaningful, and timeless as all Tommy Sands songs are. My favorite is a song call "The Song Sings On" which was written as a tribute to the late, great Tommy Makem on the o-casion of his passing a few years ago. Far from being maudlin, it is a fun-filled story of Tommy Makem's life and what he meant to all of Ireland.

I reccommend this CD to everyone who is in need of good music, good writing, great performing, and the significant events of today; in other words - everyone.

Dave Fisher - The Highwaymen


“If you treasure the Irish school of country/folk music, veteran singer Tommy Sands' new, generation-gapping collaboration with fresh voices Moya & Fionan, Let The Circle Be Wide is highly recommended.” – Jonathan Takiff, Philadelphia Daily News


“In classic Irish bard style, there are nods to today but the overall effect is classic folk revival. A delightfully organic date with nothing for fans to feel self-conscious about as the tunes bleed from their IPod ear buds, you know this is why you got into offbeat music in college in the 60s. Winning throughout because it’s from the heart.” – Chris Spector, Midwest Record


“A dense, lovely, and complicated record, with one of Ireland's best respected folk songwriters mulling over and celebrating the recent resolution of the centuries-old conflict between the English and the Irish, and the end to the "Troubles" of the last few years . . . it also sounds beautiful, and has a soulful feel that will draw listeners to it for years to come – Sands has put his passion on the line – both spiritual and social – and that's really about all we can ask of any artist. Definitely worth checking out, though it may take a while to fully sink in.” – Laurence Kay, Slipcue.com


“Sands strongly believes in the power of inclusion on all levels. This rings throughout all his gentle songs, protesting violence and ignorance, urging understanding and closeness…as well as the joy of kicking your heels up every so often. Let the Circle be Wide is folk music through and through, gorgeously recorded, quite Irish but also distinctly global in its common concerns and sympathies for the land, for the oppressed, and for justice and life.” – Mark S. Tucker, Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange


“. . . Tommy's trademark political and artistic integrity is stamped on every song he's written, and his dream of an Ireland without conflict remains as powerful and committed as ever; he addresses the global concerns of humanity in an accessible and attractive musical language that resonates with the universal appeal of traditional Irish music. . . . [T]he musical backdrops Tommy employs throughout this set are exceedingly well-drawn and expertly recorded, with every strand of the sometimes quite busy and bustling texture admirably cleanly delineated and followed without distracting from the impact of the lyrics or Tommy's fabulous singing voice. . . . Welcome back, Tommy! For this is a triumph of a record: a wonderfully affectionate album, full of supremely engaging and enchanting songs and performances.” – David Kidman, NetRhythms


"Let the Circle be Wide" - Sands from the heart by William Ramoutar

He's been around for quite a long time and has written some of the most moving songs I can tell you about, and I just might! But to tell you that his new cd is probably his strongest ever is no exaggeration. His name is Tommy Sands and I can remember some years ago, hearing one of the Clancy Brothers’ nephews, Robbie O'Connell and Mick Moloney, singing a tune on morning television and crying my eyes out.

The song was about two men who were friends, one Catholic and one Protestant, and both murdered by the divisional factions that were tearing Ireland into tiny pieces. The song was "There Were Roses,” and if you ever have the gumption to get out and find the tune, you will understand why most of us Irish want the terrible "troubles" of Northern Ireland over and done with.

Tommy has written many other tunes, maybe not all to that standard, but my God has he a talent for telling it like it is! In a word, yes, and how. So maybe that's three! But his songs are never wordy without relating exactly the way it is. He is born of a most musical family from the North and he is never far from his beloved land. These are stories in song that affect all at home and he is never a man to take a side when it's just the truth that needs to be told.

"Roses" is a true story that is heartbreaking in that it should never have happened, but it did and with Tommy's song brought the strife to many a person's mind and made them think about what might be an answer or a way to help it get better. Because for many, "the North" was someone else's problem. Even though we are Irish, somehow we were removed from the bitterness, hate and atrocities. This song, if you will pardon the pun, brought it all home. We were made to think, this could have been us and our friends. It humanized "the North.”

This new cd is reinforced by the additional of his wonderfully talented son, Fionan, and his daughter, Moya. They are multi-instrumentalists like himself, and sing with all the talent of their dad. Ah, but it's the tunes. The tunes.

"Let the Circle be Wide" is the name of this work, and I can only hope that effort is recognized for what it is, a truly fine offering that encompasses many aspects of life, love and loss, and also the "peace process" that was introduced to “the North” in the late 1990's. He is no stranger to that effort, but what is extraordinary about Mr. Sands is that for years he’s been traveling the world performing in peace concerts and trying to make peoples and governments come to terms with each other.

Some of the songs on this cd he recorded with another hero of mine, Vedran Smailovic, a Bosnian cellist, who during the "troubles" in his own hometown of Sarajevo, witnessed firsthand 22 of its citizens being blown to pieces. He went home, got his cello, and returned to the still smoking bombsite and started to play amongst the death and destruction because he said that's all he knew to do. What people these are. They are real heroes to me. That I could aspire to their bravery. There is a magnificent tribute to another true hero of Irish music, Tommy Makem, who lost his life just a couple of years ago to cancer.

Tommy Sands has written songs that have been covered by many people you probably know already - not least of all, the godfather of American folk, Pete Seeger. Pete performs with him on one of Tommy's cd’s named, "The Music of Healing." Even the most original of Irishmen, The Dubliners, have recorded his music. "Young Man's Dream," the first tune on the cd, is sung by Tommy and his daughter Moya. He sings from a whisper to a roar on this one and it is supposedly a reworking of the most recognizable of Irish songs, "Danny Boy." I'm afraid I don't see it myself, but it is a fine tune with excellent accompaniment by the superbly talented uilleann piper and whistle player, Brendan Monaghan who, in fact, adds great atmosphere to many of the tracks here with his tasteful playing.

The song "Celebrating the Life" of the legendary Tommy Makem is just that, and meant to be. "The Song Sings On" reminds us what an influence the man from Keady town was, and still is, to many of us. In the liner notes for this tune, Sands says he "decided it would not be a lamentation," and it is indeed a jaunty and joyous affair. Sands has immortalized what many felt about the bantam weight colossus who stood his ground shoulder to shoulder with the burly Clancys and belted out the tunes, to the delight of American audiences, who took them to their hearts.

Tommy Makem always seemed to me to be a fiercely proud Irishman. When he strode up on stage at concerts and planted his feet, singing into the microphone he was more recalling than singing of gallant past glories, misfortunes or hilarious exploits of yore, yet instilling in the listener hope, through the timbre and richness of his delivery. Something tells me Makem is somewhere now, eighteen months after his passing, as fiercely proud of this tune about his life, as he was of any of the songs he himself sang. Long may he influence us, a true legend.

In the North of Ireland, both Catholics and Protestants believe their day is coming. In other words, they will overcome or win this religious battle. Tommy Sands’ tune "The People Have Spoken" asks us, what if all our days are coming, and the only way we can all win is together. I went to school near the border of South and North, and I was the only one of my denomination in an otherwise denominational boarding school. I felt at first, "boy do my parents hate me or what" and I had a few altercations, I will admit. But when it boils down to it, we were all, Catholic and Protestant, at the mercy of the headmaster and his underlings. It was a real awakening to me to see that all the kids were, well, kids! All of us. We were great friends, some of my schoolmates, and I am proud to say still to this day, forty years later.

"The Troubles" are heartbreaking for many reasons, listen to this tune and read the liners notes but also, as I said, "There Were Roses." He has a real insight because he listens and writes from his heart and the hearts of fthe Northern People.

I don't want to tell you about all the tunes on this outing, because I want you to discover them for yourself. These are wonderful offerings of human spirit, hopes for a better tomorrow, love of one's fellow man and not least of all, the joy of singing a song with real meaning. I admit also to not understanding a lot of the "new" music so many listen to. I am just so glad that these tunes that mean so much are available to all to savor and enjoy this "Celebration of our Lives." Well done, Tommy Sands. You are a true "Rover of Wonder" and "You Will Never Grow Old" to this listener.

William Ramoutar hosts a radio show on Flagler College Radio WFCF 88.5fm in St Augustine Florida every sunday morning at 11 a.m E.S.T It is called "IRISH WAYS PROGRAMME" and you are always welcome to drop in on the airwaves! To visit William's BLOG, please click here.


Music Road - Monday, January 19, 2009
Celtic, folk, roots, and country music from many different neighbourhoods, and sometimes, from behind the scenes
Tommy Sands: Let the Circle Be Wide
Tommy Sands is a musician whose ideas are rooted and grounded in his home in County Down, Northern Ireland.He’s a man whose vision, shaped by the beauty and the community of his native place as wellas by its location in politically troubled borderlands, includes the value of connection, both personal and global. His latest album, "Let the Circle Be Wide", celebrates all parts of this vision.

On the intimate level, it celebrates connections of family, which has been important to Sands since he began his musical life performing with his brothers and sisters in the 1960s. His daughter Moya and son Fionán join him here, with both adding their singing and Fionán playing banjo and mandolin, Moya adding fiddle, whistle, and bodhran. Moya’s interest in the history of the sometimes overdone song "Danny Boy" led back through the history of the melody known as the "Derry Air" to an earlier song in Irish, called "The Young Man's Dream, Aisling an Oigfhir," which has to do with dreaming a new reality. Sands took this as a starting point to translate and recreate the song, which he uses to open the recording. There’s another song based in family which will resonate with anyone who has lost someone young. Sands’ brother, Dino, was killed in an auto accident, and "You’ll Never Grow Old" is, Sands says, a song which took him thirty years to write.

"Time for Asking Why" is likely to be the most controversial song on the recording. It was written in the wake of September 11th, and it is, Sands says, "not a song against America. It’s a song for America.”

The song "Rovers of Wonder" brings in international connection through melody and harmony, as several Mongolian throat singers and fiddlers Sands met on his travels join in. There's the familiar song "A Stor Mo Chroi," and a funny song about Sean Maguire, a fiddler whose music is celebrated amdist the murals of poltiics along the Falls Road in Belfast. There’s a thought provoking song about the changes warand discord may bring home in "Fields of Daises," and a celebration of coming home, "Carlingford Bay."

There are two songs President Obama might like, too, as he begins his work. One is the title song, "Let the Circle Be Wide." Sands’ own words are the best description. “It’s a song of welcome I have sing all over the world,” he says. The other is called "Make Those Dreams Come True," with nods to past, present and possibilities, and a chorus that resonates into the new year.