THE TRIALS OF CATO
Many of the younger folk musicians follow the tradition quite closely and serve up a conservative offering, few tear up the rules and redraw the boundaries along the way. Amongst the few, The Trails of Cato have already shown how the latter approach can bear fruit with their debut album, 'Hide and Hair', picking up the prize of best album at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards of 2019. The follow up record, 'Gog Magog', you'll find to be an even more adventurous affair.
Originally formed in Beirut when the founder members were there teaching English, their musical influences are eclectic to say the least. They also deliver a fine line of irony when claiming to be "the biggest British folk band to come out of the Levant (ever)". Since their formation and that successful debut, the trio have had not only the pandemic to deal with but also lost a member, Will Addison, and gained another in the talented Polly Bolton, known for her work in The Magpies.
'Gog Magog' takes its name from the mythical giant of the Cambridgeshire hills of the same name. The title track being one of four instrumentals scattered amongst the eight songs found on the album. It's an instrumental that has a jazz flavour whilst 'Balls To The Wall', another instrumental, echoes the music of their Mediterranean meeting point. Opening the album is 'Paper Planes', a banjo driven slice of serious funk that's destined to get many feet dancing around despite its deeply reflective lyrical content. Elsewhere, the roots of founder members, Robin Jones and Tomos Williams, come to the fore when they reinterpret the Welsh language poem 'Aberdaron' using a delightful acoustic melody that drifts into a skilfully picked close. Instrumentally, the music is largely acoustic with the three multi-instrumentalists leaning on banjo, mandolin and bouzouki for the main part though Williams adds some wonderful electric guitar on 'As Green As You' which helps bring about the retro feel of Led Zeppelin in their more acoustic mode.
'Ring of Roses' draws from the traditional 'all fall down' lyrics of songs written about past plagues but mirrors recent global experiences with its contemporary rhythms and eerie vocal from Bolton. That's not to say they have deserted the option of arranging established songs from the folk tradition as they have served up of 'Bedlam Boys' but, even here, the song begins with a sample of Steeleye Span's 1971 version that has been pitch-shifted and had some distortion added. Don't let all these differing influences frighten you off, 'Gog Magog' provides invigorating music as we witness the next steps in The Trials of Cato fine tuning their own style.