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The Trials Of Cato – Castle Hotel, Manchester: Live Review

Last time we saw The Trials Of Cato (review here), they were Folk Award nominees. Cut to a few months later and they’re now Folk Award Winners. Not quite back to the scene of their ‘Best Album’ triumph at the 2019 Folk Awards for Hide And Hair, but they’re back in Manchester again.

They’re a grand bunch of lads who’ve certainly paid their dues and are deservedly reaping some element of reward. It’s not the type that would see them holidaying for several months in sunnier climes or taking extended breaks from music on the royalties of albums sales. However, it does mean that they have the sort of notoriety now which means they can play their first date in Manchester and have a room full of people show up.

An audience who isn’t there just out of curiosity. It’s an audience that forms a queue in the corridor along from the bar to make sure they get a good spot. An audience who know the songs and engage with the band – breaking down the barriers some would call it.

The back room at the Castle on Oldham Street is as close as you’d get to a folk club in city centre Manchester. One where, when you finish your set, you can’t nip off to the side and await the call for an encore. You just stay on stage and if there’s enough sustained applause you do one more.

So as far as the swing towards the left on the folk barometer is concerned, These Are The Things made an early mark. It’s often (although not tonight) introduced as their protest song; a concession to the folk ideal although more a gentle moan than a fist-pumping, ‘right on brother’ tirade.

Of the three, Will Addison finds himself heavily occupied in managing the stompbox and tambourine at his feet to add a subtle percussion (boots are made for standing your beer in right?) and ducking under the mic stand in his trademark position. Centre stage is Robyn Jones, getting on a bit of a sweat with the mandolin almost dwarfed, but he occasionally straps on the tenor banjo with due health warnings to listeners. Tomos Williams holds the other flank; an understated presence gently teasing his guitar.

We also find out the origins of the name that owe less to romantic notions and more to mundane matters. We won’t spoil the surprise here – just get to a gig and find out – or ask.

So Hide And Hair might be a hard act to follow. There’s a sobre My Love’s In Germany and the more dramatic Gawain the result of Robyn’s history specialism and there’s a vague hint or remote possibility that maybe part two might follow. The tune sets are particularly rousing and their diversions into the Welsh language, while a mystery for most if not all of us (although some claim knowledge of Aberdaron – me included) , are evocative and original.

Meanwhile, they’re well on the road to the second album. Of a couple of teasers, Bedlam Boys was positively funky and suggests that the trio isn’t going to do go down the obvious ‘if it ain’t broken’ path. For their first gig in the city though, you can say that The Trails Of Cato can mark Manchester as won over.

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The Trials Of Cato online:

Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Soundcloud / Youtube

Photography by Mike Ainscoe. You can find more of Mike’s work on the At The Barrier Facebook page.

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