Songs usually mean a whole lot more to the listener if they mean something to the writer to begin with.
‘Sugar Island’, the latest recording from the Murphy Brothers AKA The 4 of Us, is a musical tribute to growing up in the North in the 1970s – specifically growing up in Newry, hometown to Declan and Brendan.
Named after a well-known gathering spot in Newry, ‘Sugar Island’ gives an honest depiction of growing up in the 70s and dealing with all the normal stuff teenagers had to contend with as well as some of the more abnormal stuff.
With twelve songs in all, ‘Sugar Island’ offers a little bit of everything that we have come to love and expect from the band – the soulful voice of Brendan against a backdrop of Declan’s stunning acoustic guitar playing.
There is something very distinctive about Brendan’s voice and similarly with Declan and his guitar playing.
In music, as with art and literature, it is impossible to be all things to all people but I don’t think the Murphys care too much about that.
The 4 of Us have consolidated a strong Irish support over the last 26 years or so and ‘Sugar Island’ will definitely appeal to those fans of a certain vintage, with those many references to life in 1970s Ireland.
Anyone who considers Brexit a good idea should pay close attention to ‘Going South’ – a song which will give a clue as to what life might be like with a hard border. For anyone in their late 40s and over, the song will bring back the horrors of a standard summer holiday trip down to the Republic of Ireland and a vivid reflection of a darker time.
‘Birds Eye View’ almost makes light of the carnage and mayhem which was lived out on a regular basis across much of Northern Ireland. Written from the perspective of a teenager looking out from his bedroom late at night, there was also a touch of magic to it all, in a mad way.
Strange kind of music. A background to a young boys dream.
It brings back memories of a time in the 70s when we got a call from neighbours to evacuate our house. We ended up playing football at 5.00am in the primary school yard, waiting for a bomb in the village to go off.
There’s nothing glamorous in it at all but for a young child at a certain age, there was an incredible drama to life in the north, which is well captured in this song.
‘Sugar Island’ is a very personal collection of songs for the Murphys and whilst it may be easier for some of us to relate to their narrative, nobody should feel excluded.
By Paul McAnallen