Album Review | The Mary Wallopers Offer Rousing Renditions Of Trad Classics

If you’re not already familiar with them by now, The Mary Wallopers are a three-piece ballad group comprising brothers Charles and Andrew Hendy and their friend Sean McKenna,  who have spent the past several years touring all corners of Ireland, collecting traditional songs before dusting them down and reimagining them in their Dundalk studio. The result is this the band’s self titled debut, an album which channels Irish musical history and more.

On first listen, The Mary Wallopers sounds like an upbeat album of traditional sounding songs that will get you tapping your toes. But anyone with even a passing knowledge of folk or trad music knows that these songs usually have quite dark undercurrents and that is also true of this collection.

The trio set out their stall from the off with a rousing rendition of ‘Eileen Óg’. It’s a jaunty ditty that basically encourages men to treat ‘em mean and keep ‘em keen, written by Percy French and probably best known as a staple of The Dubliners. And indeed, the influence of Ronnie Drew looms large here in rasping vocals accompanied by a hint of vibrato and jangling banjo.

Already a fan favourite, ‘Cod Liver Oil + The Orange Juice’ is actually a Scottish song made popular by Hamish Imlach in the ’60s – originally recorded for the 2019 EP A Mouthful of The Mary Wallopers, this hit track never received a proper release so a new version has been recorded for the debut album. As the title suggests, it’s an ode to drunken revelry and its associated romantic pursuits. Like so many songs of its original era, the lyrics of ‘Cod Liver Oil + The Orange Juice’ have not aged particularly well. While not offensive per se, they are dated and no amount of fancy production can change this.

Now, don’t get me wrong.


I love a good rebel song as much as the next person and I am far from a prude, but a few aside from ‘Cod Liver Oil’ are guilty of the same. Take another Dubliners staple, ‘Building Up & Tearing England Down’ which harks back to the day when Irish men frequently emigrated to the UK to seek out labouring work. With its anti-English establishment undertones, it feels somewhat inappropriate nowadays.

Of course, this isn’t the case throughout. ‘Lots Of Little Soldiers’ is an anti-war song that still seems relevant given current world events, and the trio have added a verse about landlords to The Chieftain’s classic ‘The Frost is All Over’ to make it more relevant to contemporary times.

These eleven tracks feature solid musicianship and shows that the group know their way around a hook, but it is hard to put a new spin on something that is essentially traditional. These are the kinds of songs you can imagine driving the crowd wild when played live, and indeed, many of the best tracks on The Mary Wallopers were written to be performed live rather than recorded.

While it is a solid record, The Mary Wallopers won’t be to everyone’s taste – but if you want to hear these songs at their best, make sure you catch the band on their upcoming live dates as they hit the road on their ongoing Irish, UK and European tour.