The Trials Of Cato – The Met, Bury – 1st April 2022
A mention in dispatches for the support from an excited but nervous Chloe Lawrence – she’s also in the building next Friday, 8th April, supporting the emerging ATB favourite Toria Wooff. A half-hour of gentle singing and fine and fluid fingerpicking, plus the odd rude word – she did ask first and no one objected. Sung so sweetly, she’d get away with most things, never mind not giving a f**k.
Following which, we were highly intrigued to see The Trials continue. In other words, the ‘new’ Trials Of Cato, with the line up change seeing Polly Bolton stepping up to replace Will Addison in the trio. Yorkshire born, she’s not only kept the demographic consistent but added a splash of (mainly green) colour and a variation on the standard tight jeans/big boots fashion statement to the centre of the line up as well as adding weight to the new material. new material that’s by their own admittance long overdue, but their website promises Gog Magog later this year.
Talking of demographics, the regulars in The Met’s The Box are suddenly boosted close to showtime by what seems like a busload of fans who’ve arrived on a coach trip as they march in, swelling both the ranks and the hope for a folk music audience for the future.
The Trials’ (a reminder it’s an ‘award winning’) album Hide And Hair still provides the backbone of the set, and we’ve already heard their take on Bedlam Boys on our last encounter almost two years to the day since. Haf gets an early outing with the chance to see if and how the personnel changes affect its delivery and along with gloria where Robin Jones takes up the lead vocal, it feels ‘the same but different’. A bit like, as Jimmy page often says with his constant repolishing of the Led Zep catalog, the same picture in a different frame. Having namechecked the mighty Zep, the trio throw in a little Kashmir riff to acknowledge that they have their collective fingers on a musical pulse where the blood isn;t purely folk blood.
Historical topics continue a strong vein in the new material alongside several new dance tunes which even persuade some of those younger and uninhibited one to take to the dance space in between the front tables and the stage. Black Shuck on the one hand might be an entity with which you wouldn’t;t want an encounter, yet the reminder that The Darkness also opened their Permission To Land album with a song of the same name (an AC/DC styled stomper) prompts the thought that Robin jones owuldn;t actually look out of place duetting with Justin & Co. Especially with some of the rawk grimaces he pulls as he shreds away on banjo.
We also get new songs inspired, if that’s the right word, or at least built on the plague (that ring-a-ring of roses isn’t all its seem apparently) and the Roman hating Boudicca; Polly striking out with the “bad ass bitch” gender balance. The latter has the sort of first impression stickiness that bodes well for that new record. Aside from the obviously difference in how the new Trials looks, soundwise they’re also moving on as guitarist Tomos Williams even leans over to add a little keyboard panache now and again while Robin and Polly are as active with their feet as with their hands; much happening at foot level with impressive looking, foot/toe triggered pedals boards and pads. Folk music is often about reinterpretation, adding new tunes and shape shifting traditions. That’s just how The Trials are evolving, broadening their pallet and moving into a new phase.
With the new era, the new broom has swept away (for the time being maybe) some of the go to Trials signatures – there’s no Gawain or a swing through their protest song Things I Despise tonight. But although some things change, there will be those that always stay the same. Tom Paine’s Bones gets a fervent dusting off as it always has done and as it likely will forever more. We’ll see you guys at Underneath The Stars in a few months time.
Photography by Mike Ainscoe. You can find more of Mike’s work on the At The Barrier Facebook page.