The eponymous debut EP by The Trials Of Cato came out of nowhere and smacked everyone between the eyes. Live, they are full of energy and their first full-length album, Hide And Hair, maintains their energy levels but also showcases just what great writers they are as well. For anyone needing an introduction, The Trials Of Cato are William Addison on bouzouki, accordion, percussion and lead vocals; Robin Jones on mandolin, tenor banjo and lead vocals and Tomas Williams playing guitar and bass. Set out like that you’d suspect that they are Irish but actually they are part Welsh and part English and got together in Beirut – but that’s another story.
Hide And Hair opens with ‘Difyrrwch’, a jolly set of three traditional tunes to set your toes tapping. Then they smack you between the eyes again. ‘Gloria’, one of five original songs in the set, is a masterpiece. It’s a song of realisation, I suppose, a song of coming of age and coming out. Quite where it came from, I couldn’t say, but the story is wrapped up in such wonderful words. ‘Haf’ is in Welsh and I really can’t tell you what it’s about but that doesn’t matter and then we’re into another instrumental set, ‘Kadisha/Nightride To Armagh’, led by Robin’s banjo.
‘Gawain’ is the story of Arthur’s man and his battle with the Green Knight given a modern feel but then politics creeps in. First comes ‘Tom Paine’s Bones’, the signature song for anyone on the side of right and justice followed by ‘These Are The Things’, a stinging attack on neo-liberalism which deserves to be up there with the great anti-capitalist anthems. To follow that with ‘My Love’s In Germany’ shows a deep understanding of the relevance of traditional song in today’s climate.
The Trials Of Cato don’t over-complicate what they do. The only guest musician is Stefan Hegerat who plays an appropriately martial snare drum on ‘My Love’s In Germany’. William and Robin have strong voices in the lead roles and the way they interchange lead instrumental lines is a delight. And they are really nice chaps, too.
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‘Gloria’ – live: