The Trials of Cato – ‘Hide & Hair’

❉ Rooted in the folk traditions of Ireland and Britain, ‘Hide and Hair’ is far from a trial, writes Eoghan Lyng.

I’m partial to some trad and folk music myself. It’s that return to the folk score, the Celticism, the mysticism, that excuse to ceilí around the kitchen, the chance to lambast the bones that ever walked in Ed Sheeran’s body, however infatuated he was with Galway’s finest, the gombeen so and so. The Trials Of Cato (TTOC), a power folk trio, share that tradition and dignity, keeping the spirits alive in their well through their harmonies. It’s an excellent debut album, finely in time for the fiftieth anniversary of the seminal Finbar and Eddie Furey (1968), which started the modern folk trad scene in full.

It’s an album steeped in the ever-growing love for Tolkien, for Arthur, the startling Gawain lovingly levered at the greener guise a knight took to best in Camelot. It’s got a blues rock arrangement and the most accessible track on an album to the unconverted to Celtic folk songs more elaborately sophisticated nuances.

My Love’s In Germany has that dignified touch, passed from The Clancys to The Fureys, a ballad of dying loss, slain sea bound sailors augmented by orchestrated on notated vocalisations. It’s a brilliant performance that seems to complete these three in a heavenly hibernian trio (ironic, as TTOC  hail from North Wales and Yorkshire!)

Haf flies in a really reel run rhythm radiated in perfect Welsh diction and enunciation. There’s a touch of the Crosby, Stills and Nash in their harmonies, their glowing Mark Radcliffe endorsement “one of the real discoveries on the folk circuit in recent times” well and truly earned. In an ensemble of vocals, these three are difficult to distinguish; that’s a compliment in three part harmony happenings!

These Are The Things sounds similarly cut from the colourful Mary Hopkins tune Those Were The Days. Robin Jones’ mandolin playing is playfully Americana in sound, echoing the softer touches Levon Helm brought to the acoustic sets in The Band. High in hybrid, these influences are best heard on closing shanty The Drinkers. Paul McCartney’s newest album borrowed from shanties of Liverpool’s ports, this is better again, the three voices gushing in Drunken Sailor cat calls. Tomos Williams keeps the rhythm on an acoustic guitar, and William Addison plays the particular bouzouki so pleasantly it gets a thumbs up from this Irish writer! The album closes on an extended instrumental jam that aches for the “yelps” and “hoots” of a stomping tavern crowd eager for Friday night frivolities.

Other instrumentals Libanus and Kadisha gear guiltily from indulgent to indolent, perhaps proof the outfit are best suited to melody and lyric. Gloria is teasingly told in Ralph McTell London wordery. There’s a word painting of county fairs leading to barren isolation, in resolute wait for a sound. There are some wonderful couplets in “ashtray bars”, “broken guitars”, lyrically learned in poetry. Hide and Hair may comprise trials by name, but it’s far from a trial by nature. There’s The Clancys, there’s The Fureys. Now, there’s The Trials of Cato.


❉ The Trials Of Cato – ‘Hide & Hair’ released November 9th via Water Records.

❉ Eoghan Lyng is a writer, part-time English teacher and full-time lover of life.

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