There’s a curious belief that folk music falls down when it reaches the studio, as it simply can’t match traditional culture’s natural environment: the pub. On second album ‘Irish Rock N Roller’ Dundalk’s own The Mary Wallopers have come up their own solution: they’ve turned the studio into a pub.
Now, that’s flippant, but equally it’s sort of true. The songs on display here sound like they’ve scorched a path through wakes and weddings, Confirmations and after-work sessions. It’s lively, funny, subversive, and wholly accurate – beneath the joyous leap and skirl of the instruments lie songs about the permanence of Irish identity and the necessity of the class struggle… y’know, the good stuff.
Honed across their frenetic live schedule, The Mary Wallopers are tight as hell. ‘The Bauld O’Donaghue’ is trad with a dose of Gene Vincent lightning in its heels, while ‘The Holy Ground’ has a kind of D-Beat intensity to it.
The musicianship is supreme, with the likes of ‘Rakes Of Poverty’ boasting lung-bursting vocal broadsides. It’s not all five-pints-down session work, though: ‘Madam, I’m A Darlin’ is a shockingly intense piece of drone, while ‘The Turfman Of Ardee’ has a rollicking outsider art feel.
At its core, though, ‘Irish Rock N Roll’ is sheer entertainment. Boasting phenomenal energy levels, it’s little wonder The Mary Wallopers have been compared to the Pogues or The Dubliners – ‘Rothsea’ is a drunken traipse around Glasgow on New Year’s Eve, and ‘Hot Asphalt’ taps into the sheer release that comes from signing off after a long day of physical labour.
That’s not to make the Mary Wallopers sound cartoonish, however. Accessible, sure – but they’re in control here, deftly overturning expectations on what folk music can achieve, and the topics those songs can reach. ‘Irish Rock N Roll’ is an anti-authoritarian joy, with a spirit that feels close to punk in place. One to play loud – and then louder still.
Words: Robin Murray