THE NEW LEAVES – A Sketch Of Home (Corn Crake Records)

A Sketch Of HomeThe New Leaves are a quartet from County Down. Decky McKay and Cian O’Hare sing and play guitar, Patrice McKevitt sings and plays bass with Paddy Goodfellow on drums and percussion. After a couple of successful singles, they have now released their debut album, A Sketch Of Home, a title which describes the contents of the record perfectly – a series of musical portraits of the area around their home town of Warrenpoint and the Mourne Mountains and its stories.

McKay is the songwriter, constructing a musical style that isn’t obviously Irish and is contemporary but with elements of traditional music and country, sweet with harmonies and topped with rich orchestration. It makes for very good listening. The opening track is the short but sumptuous ‘A Time Before The Stars’ which ends with the sound of running water. That’s followed by their two singles, ‘Donaghaguy Reservoir’ and ‘Country Lane Lament’. Both concentrate on the landscape but include observations about the people who inhabit it. ‘Giant Murphy Favour’ really rocks but the opening line “I need you to be eight foot down for me” is a puzzle.

‘In The Shadow Of The Mournes’ wraps a love story in the landscape and although some parts are personal to the writer it’s a song you can happily groove along to. ‘Bluebell Woods’ takes a slightly mystical turn – this is Ireland, after all – while ‘The Lights From Omeath’ seems rather more philosophical and I really wish I had the lyrics in front of me. ‘Maggie’s Island’ is a solemn song telling of a drowning, perhaps a local story but I know no more.

‘East Coast Daydream’ and ‘Rocky Mountain’ are stories that begin with the land and I fancy that ‘A Silk Road To The Moon’ started with the reflection of moonlight on the sea. ‘Away With The Fairies’ probably tells you all you need to know about the song and finally, ‘Rambling Song’ is an archetypal “let’s get out of here” clarion call.

A Sketch Of Home is a really good debut, although a little knowledge of the geography and history of the area might be an advantage. Even without that it’s very easy to get lost in these songs and let your imagination fill in the gaps.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website:

‘In The Shadow Of The Mournes’ – official video: