Review: Trials of Cato Put Forth A Winning Argument

The Trials of Cato/Gog Magog/independent
3.5 out of Five Stars

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The Trials of Cato, the 2019 BBC Radio 2 Folk Award Best Album winners, may remind some of those quaint and slightly twee British curios, the Incredible String Band, a group birthed in the ‘60s that relied on a similar shimmer and sheen, as well as the ebullient vocals of its male/female combine that was always at the fore. The current band’s sophomore set, Gog Magog, does nothing to allay those comparisons, but it does reinforce the fact that The Trials of Cato are, in fact, one of the bright lights on the British folk scene. The delicate textures associated with a narrative like “Aberdaron” confirms their credence in that regard, but given the wit and whimsy pervaded throughout, it becomes clear that while they freely tap into tradition, they are equally adept at putting their own spin on a folkish noir.

Formed in Beirut, Lebanon, The Trials of Cato are ablaze with exuberance and enthusiasm, whether manifest in sparkling instrumentals such as the title track “Kerhonkson Stomp,” “Dawns,” “Balls to the Wall,” or the full rollicking wallop of opening track “Paper Planes.” That’s not to say that they don’t occasionally opt for a respite, songs such as “When Black Shuck Roams,” “As Green As You” and “Boudicca c. Ad 60”—their unlikely titles aside—are awash in a delicate embrace. Granted, this is a band that mostly operates on the fringes, but given their perky personality, the charm is absolutely undeniable. Even when declaring, I thought you were my friend, But now I feel like a fool/ Thought that I was using you/Not being used, on the track titled “I Thought You Were My Friend,” the surreptitious intent only adds to the fascination.

The trio—Polly Bolton, Robin Jones, and Tomos Williams—perform on an array of stringed instruments and gracefully blend their voices in tandem, but the fragile nature of their musical make-up doesn’t preclude an expressive delivery and a decidedly charming disposition. That’s all manifest in their tangle of strings, and a certain penchant for crafting melodies that engage the listener with more than a hint of allure and insistence. The jury is clearly convinced, leading Trials of Cato to claim a winning appeal.

Courtesy The Bloom Effect PR

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