An outlier in the Irish folk revival scene, Dundalk outfit The Mary Wallopers eschew the sonic experimentation and stylistic crossovers favoured by their peers. Instead, their focus is on taking Irish folk music back to its roots: the pub.
This is no slight on the band. Their earnest take on the genre has served them well to this point. In holding fast and true to the old ways, the band have stood apart from their contemporaries by focusing on authenticity and fun, while simultaneously striving to be a voice for the downtrodden and maintaining folk music’s strong sense of storytelling. In a way, that’s its own kind of subversiveness.
On the band’s second full-length album, ‘Irish Rock N Roll’, the band’s performance is tighter and more refined than ever before, owing to their relentless touring schedule. On early cuts like The Holy Ground and Rakes Of Poverty, while no less rollicking and rambling than ever before, a newfound sense of professionalism and attention to arrangement really shines through.
There’s a lot of variety to be appreciated, too. The Rich Man and The Poor Man and The Idler are more stripped back affairs, the former a vocal and bodhran led fable, the latter a parable on morality in society that favours those who make a passive income by nefarious, yet socially accepted means and their protectors over refugees, dole heroes and drug addicts. Madam I’m A Darlin’ builds to an impressive drone, while Wexford Town is a genuinely touching ballad.
While political and emotional in all the right spots, ‘Irish Rock N Roll’ is at it’s core just honest to jaysis good craic. Tracks like opener The Bauld O’Donoghue, The Holy Ground, The Blarney Stone and a slight reworking of the Clancy Brothers’ Rothsea-O hearken back to the good old ceol and craic days.
Caricaturish it is not, however. For all its sincerity, you can hear the cheeky winks, glints in the eyes and shit-eating grins throughout every second of ‘Irish Rock N Roll’. The Mary Wallopers, in staying true to tradition, succeed in imbuing Irish folk music with a punk rock attitude that you just have to appreciate.