On Sugar Island, The 4 Of Us – led by brothers Brendan and Declan Murphy – reflect on growing up in the border town of Newry, with the Troubles constantly in the background. The approach is largely acoustic, albeit with some intricate arrangements and skillful lyric writing. And, as we have come to expect from The 4 of Us, the songs are imbued with considerable melodic flair.

‘Bird’s Eye View’ blends Simon & Garfunkel-style finger-picked folk with a bluesy melody and a light rhythmic shuffle. Despite the up-beat atmosphere, it’s darkly ominous beneath the surface, with the searchlights of ever-present army choppers hovering overhead, “shooting lightning bolts down an empty street.”

The annual July exodus from the North finds the family piling into the car, “Leaving the parades,pipers and drummers” behind, and ‘Going South’ with “cigarette smoke hanging in the air.” While it’s sad to be reminded of how the innocence of childhood can be colored by darker happenings outside, they broach everyday experiences too. Teenage romance and the bittersweet regret of break-up is explored on the title track, which has echoes of Ricky Nelson’s ‘Garden Party’ in the verse, while the soaring chorus underpins the lovely lyrical sentiment.

Elsewhere, ‘Good Bad News’, ‘Hell To Pay’ and the sublime ‘High Wire Walker’ add to to the memories of carefree youth. The wistful and directly autobiographical ‘Hometown On The Border’ neatly concludes the brothers’ story with the melody and chord progression recalling the Stones’ classic ‘Wild Horses’. Excellent.
Out Now // Colm O’Hare

For their eighth studio album, The 4 Of Us return thematically, if not geographically, to their hometown. Sugar Island mostly concerns itself with Brendan and Declan Murphy’s childhood in Newry, Co. Down. The title is one of several landmarks referenced by the brothers in songs such as Going South and Hometown on the Border, the latter’s mention of ‘soldiers tapping their heels’ being especially evocative. Nostalgia suits the Murphys’ low-key, mainly acoustic folk-pop approach. The gentle flutter of ’73 is easy on the ear, while the brisk rumble of The Little Things and the wistful River Flows are doused in a gauzy hue as comforting as an old family photo album.
Lauren Murphy SUNDAY TIMES



THE 4 OF US often operate as a two piece acoustic outfit these days. The songs here seem designed for that type of operation.
BROTHERS Declan and Brendan Murphy reflect on their childhoods on many of the songs. Given that they were raised in Newry, the spectre of the northern conflict is omnipresent. Going South speaks of the annual migration to the Republic by Catholics from the six counties during the marching season. Others, such as Hometown On The Border, are equally deft and honed with a light touch.
Mail on Sunday

If you’ve never seen Brendan and Declan playing live as a duo, you’ve missed a trick. Brendan is the smooth raconteur, telling tales and jokes that draw the audience in with a laid back style that reminds me of the greatly missed Gerry Anderson. And boy, can he sing.

Declan is the quiet one and gets on with the job of playing guitar in a hyper-kinetic and at times slightly manic way, throwing in wild mixtures of styles and rhythms. There’s also the homemade stomp-box of plywood/carpet/towel which gets a fair old workout throughout their set courtesy of Declan’s left foot.


Review: Michael Barbour | Photo: Julianne Rouquette