Trials Of Cato -‘ Hide & Hair’ (Water Records)
As ever, there’s a huge amount of records arriving and begging to be listened to. As those end of year lists have to be made any day now, there are two British-made folk records that are due for inclusion on those lists. One is Stick In The Wheel’s Follow Them True. The other is the debut by Trials Of Cato, Hide & Hair. What these records both hold in common is the way that they incorporate centuries old British traditions with something more contemporary.
Having honed their skills playing in Beirut, the middle east joins with English and Welsh heritage here. The album’s opening track ‘Difyrrwch’ is a case in point: it is their own arrangement of two Welsh tunes and one English -‘Hen Ferchetan’, ‘Difyrrwch Gwyr y Gogledd,’ and ‘The Parson’s Farewell.’ There’s an honesty and sincereity within, and it’s something that has nothing whatsoever to indie kids trying to align themselves to something vaguely rootsy (thank God). There’s a mixture of original and traditional material within. In lesser hands a song like ‘Gawain’ with its inspiration of the medieval tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight really could have ended up a complete pig’s ear. In the hands of this acclaimed folk trio it’s something special, evoking the way that say, Led Zeppelin would draw on traditional music (without, obviously, sounding anything like Zep whatsoever). It’s genuinely spine-tingling.
There are other highlights here – their cover of Graham Moore’s song ‘Tom Paine’s Bones’ is infectious, and evoking the man who stated that popular political revolution is permissible when a government does not safeguard the natural rights of its people. Somehow, with the political situation in both Britain and America, this seems right on the money. This is in contrast to their version of a seventeeth century widow’s lament ‘My Love’s In Germany.’ It’s affecting and a display of their skill at harmonising as well as on their instruments. While it would be great to hope that the song would have a happy conclusion (think Laura Cantrell’s version of New Order’s ‘Love Vigilantes’)…umm, it doesn’t. Yet, it never descends into a dirge.
This is a wonderfully warm album, which it is easy to surrender to. It reminds us that folk isn’t just about preserving old traditions but applying them to the present day and combining those two strands well. Sure there’s a lot of music coming into the inbox, but this is an example of something that I keep making the time to listen to again and again.
Hide & Hair is released on November 9 on Water Records