3HATTRIO – Live At Zion (Okehdokee Records)

Live At Zion3hattrio release Live At Zion in November. What do you get if three musicians find themselves living in the desert but have arrived there with very different musical pedigrees – a classically trained violinist, someone who has thirty years of playing in the Caribbean and someone steeped in cowboy music? You get this. The band call it American Desert Music – and for a music that captures something elemental and on the edges of our consciousness, that’s not a bad description.

Eighteen months ago, I came across 3hattrio as a result of getting their last studio album, Lord Of  The Desert, to review: https://folking.com/3hattrio-lord-of-the-desert-own-label/. I found it to be stunning, one of my albums of the year for 2018. Essentially the three band members, Greg Istock, Eli Wrankle and Hal Cannon, are creating this unique sound with just double bass, violin, banjo – on occasion, guitar and vocals. But, I’ve wondered…….what do they sound like live?

The band have recently been on tour in the UK and I went to see them. They’re good. There are no smoke and mirrors, the sound you hear on the album is the sound they create live. I overheard someone in the audience say, “You couldn’t describe this as a particular type of music, could you?” It is that unique, American Desert Music capturing a sense of an older world and how it impacts on our psyche.

Live At Zion, then, is exactly what its title says – a live album which was recorded (in a pre-Civil War church) in a hamlet at the mouth of Zion Canyon in front of neighbours, friends and fans. The band invite you to listen to the album as a desert symphony rising out of their home. There is a mixture of new and previously recorded music on the album. Its November release date is to coincide with the centenary of the establishment of the Zion National Park in Utah, USA.

The album also captures the band’s stage craft. Have a listen to the last third of ‘Texas Traveler’ where you get an interplay between vocal and violin, simultaneously moving to sound like a small animal squeaking in the desert and creating something humorous for the audience. The track then turns into participation – the audience first clapping in time, then joining in with the vocal and then being completely unable to join in Istock’s rapid, animalistic, ancient human, vocalisation. It’s all done very nicely live and you can hear it well on this album.

The video below, with a Tom Russell voiceover, gives the background to how the band were formed, snatches of the music and a sense of how good it sounds live – even (about half way through the film) when played in what looks like a fully lit library.

I saw the band in a concert hall, with decent sound system. All pretty good – though the music did make me wonder if it would sound even better if the lights were turned off and the music was coming eerily from a darkened, desert-night-like, stage. As they say in the video “the music – it’s so not what these instruments get together and play”, which is why it’s worth seeing 3hattrio live just as much as it’s worth listening to the albums.

Live At Zion captures the unique experience of this band. Not an album to be played as background music, though. Take time to immerse yourself in the music and world it creates. They quote the lord of the desert in ‘Desert Triptych’ “I write these words and they paint the desert sands”. Even more than the words, the music of 3hattrio also paints the desert sands – a big, timeless landscape with elements of what Ted Hughes called “the dream/Darkness beneath night’s darkness had freed”.

Mike Wistow

Artist’s website: http://www.3hattrio.com

‘Texas Traveler’ – live and official:

‘In The Desert’ documentary:

In the Desert with 3hattrio from Kukaloris on Vimeo.

3hattrio – new album


3hattrio arrive here at the start of the week to kick off their latest UK/European tour.

Their fifth album Live At Zion, recorded  in a pre-Civil War adobe-and-frame church in the hamlet of Virgin at the mouth of Zion Canyon in front of a crowd of neighbours, friends and fans will be released on November 19, 2019 – a century after the establishment of Zion National Park.

The album, featuring re-workings of earlier material as well as powerfully evocative new creations, gets a European pre-release when they return here. They were commissioned to compose a brand new piece to mark the centenary of the founding of the Zion National Park, complete with video, which will get its first screening at a glittering event attended by Sting when he’s in Salt Lake City to appear in concert. Ironically, this will happen while the band is in the UK for these dates.

Artists’ website: http://www.3hattrio.com/

‘Texas Traveler’ – official video:

The 2019 Folking Awards

Welcome to the 2019 Folking Awards and thank you again to everyone who participated this year. The nominations, were in eight categories, and came from our ever-expanding team of writers and were collated into shape by the Folkmeister and the Editor over a pint or two, which also involved, a few arm-wrestles and a spot of beer-mat aerobics, in a convenient local watering hole.

There were five nominees in each category, all of whom have impressed our writers during 2018.

As we said last year, all are winners in our eyes, as are quite a few who didn’t make the short list. However, it’s not just about what we think, so once more, it was down to you, our ever-growing readership, to make the final call.

We will now compile the results and announce the winners of each category at some point next week.

*The Public Vote for each category closed at 9.00pm on Sunday 31st March (GMT+1).

Soloist Of The Year

Keith James
Reg Meuross
Rachel Newton
John Smith
Andy White

Best Duo

Gilmore & Roberts
Daria Kulesh and Jonny Dyer
Greg Russell and Ciaran Algar
Winter Wilson

Best Band

The Men They Couldn’t Hang
Merry Hell
Trials Of Cato
The Young’Uns

Best Live Act

The Men They Couldn’t Hang
Grace Petrie
The Salts
Martin Stephenson & The Daintees
Andy White

Best Album

A Problem Of Our Kind – Gilmore & Roberts
The Well Worn Path – Seth Lakeman
The Joy Of Living – Jackie Oates
Queer As Folk – Grace Petrie
Hide And Hair – Trials Of Cato

Best Musician

Martin Harley
Aidan O’Rourke
Marina Osman
John Smith
Richard Thompson

Rising Star

Burning Salt
Robert Lane
Kitty MacFarlane
Smith & Brewer
Vision Thing

Best International Artist(s)

Tyler Childers
Mary Gauthier
Larkin Poe

3HATTRIO – Lord Of The Desert (own label)

Lord Of The DesertClose the windows, turn off background sound, put headphones on if you want, and just lose yourself in this album. Lord Of The Desert by 3hattrio was released in the UK on March 1st.

Good music changes what you feel or do and hearing this album has had me researching the desert country of the Zion National Park in Utah where the band are from. The music on the album is pulled from the traditions of those who went to the desert in the past few hundred years (rather than those of the native nomadic Americans). It’s music of a kind you’ve probably never heard before, linked back via cowboys to Europe, Africa, the biblical middle east (try the title track) – and of a hard haunting world which is none of these and entirely unique in itself, the deserts of Utah and the neighbouring Nevada and Arizona. Click on the video link below to see how it came about and to get a sense of the sound.

How to describe it, then? Prosaically, it’s a largely acoustic album predominantly based around violin, banjo and bass. But that’s a bit like saying Elton John albums are based on the piano; the last way you’d describe Lord Of The Desert is a prosaic album. Sit and listen closely and you’ll be repaid with something that captures a spirit, a feel – the sense of the uncompromising desert life and how men live with it as they deal with the awe it creates, the internal fears we have and from which we are sheltered by modern comforts. If you’ve ever walked, climbed, dived, sailed way beyond your comfort zone, you’ll know how you need to understand the places deep inside you to keep going. This is what Lord Of The Desert captures in its sound, not just the desert but its impact on man.

There is an insistent picked string sound behind many of the tracks, which is percussive as much as harmonic. On ‘Night Sky’, you hear a scary violin which must have been taught by a wild spirit, while percussion teeters on the edges of your conscious hearing as a rattlesnake sound. ‘Pilgrim’ echoes with lyrics of wide water, of a pilgrim by the riverside, angry men meeting angry men and streaking the river red, a crossing which doesn’t refer to any Greek legend but is haunted by a sense of the Styx and of man being part this world, part near death. ‘War’ has an echoing sound, already haunting but which then adds a repetitive cry in the background like the squeal of buzzards when they are looking for prey. Justifiably, 3hattrio refer to their sound as American Desert Music.

There are both instrumentals and songs on the album, but on the songs the vocals often make the lyrics deliberately indistinct; there’s a vocal intonation of old men in touch with an old world, rarely pushed far forward in the mix, giving priority not to the voice but to the overall feel of a track. Lord Of The Desert, then, is a soundscape which catches something elemental: the titles include ’Dust Devil’, ‘Faith’, ‘Pilgrim’, ‘War’, ‘Wastelands of Yesterday’ and so on. Tracks capture that feel of being out in the dark when you half hear sounds and they’re simultaneously very clear as they come through the night air to you – and very unclear as you’re not sure what the sound is and how safe you are.

To take a final couple of tracks: ‘I Am’ mixes instruments and vocal with perfect control, each holding the beat then taking the lead; similarly, ‘Skeleton Tree’ has banjo, violin and bass trading sounds with each holding the tune then taking it in turns to move into a different place before an echo-ey close. The trio consist of Eli Wrankle (new folk, classical and digital music), Hal Cannon (folklorist, songwriter and radio producer) and Greg Istock (experimental jazz and Caribbean music) and the sound they create is fused from their very different musical backgrounds and their sense of place.

How to describe it? Lord Of The Desert is an album created using modern technology but fully inhabited by the sense of the Utah desert that 3hattrio come from. It captures that half world where you can’t ignore the desert, you are part of the desert and part outside it. Filmmakers would use the music for scenes of great depth as its insistent rhythms match your heart beats as you go to the place where you fight against and then control your elemental fears.

These paragraphs are an attempt to give you a sense of a startlingly different album. By contrast, 3hattrio describe themselves on their website as “The subject matter of the songs is often desert oriented, sometimes not. Mostly, they express the desert experientially from a daily-ness of watching light off distant mesas and hearing the way sound plays off sheer sandstone cliffs. Then they play music. They don’t over-think it.” So, don’t over think it, give it a listen.

Mike Wistow

Artist’s website: http://www.3hattrio.com

‘Dust Devil’ – official video: