“There is no shortage of water in the desert, but exactly the right amount,”
Edward Abbey wrote in his seminal 1968 book, Desert Solitaire. “A perfect ratio of water to rock, water to sand, insuring that wide free open, generous spacing among plants and animals, homes and towns and cities, which makes the arid West so different from any other part of the nation.” It is here that the three “hats” of Southwest Utah’s 3HATTRIO call home. Together, Hal Cannon, Greg Istock, and Eli Wrankle have been making music that flows out of the deep and ancient recesses of the Utah Desert, where, Abbey continued, “There is no lack of water here unless you try to establish a city where no city should be.” Inspired by Abbey’s chronicle of his sojourn into their homeland wilderness, 3HATTRIO release their third album, SOLITAIRE.
As with Edward Abbey, something about the desert landscape drew each of the band’s members to its solitary wilderness. Hal Cannon (vocals, banjo, guitar) is a storyteller and founding member of The Deseret String Band, the Western Folklife Center, and the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Eli Wrankle (violin) is a Utah native studying music at Southern Utah University. Greg Istock (vocals, bass, percussion) is an multidisciplinary artist from Florida where he spent thirty years producing and exploring Caribbean music and experimental jazz. Together they’ve made three albums that pioneer a sound that they call American Desert Music, that comes to maturity on Solitaire, produced and recorded by Istock in his painting studio. But where their previous album, 2015’s Dark Desert Night, was covered over in “dusk and dust and dreams” (to borrow from Carl Sandburg), Solitaire finds the early morning sunlight cresting the horizon. If Dark Desert Night was a dialogue with silence, Solitaire is a dance with the rhythm and sonic nuance of the wilderness. And while Dark Desert Night was shrouded in the pitch black cold of the Utah midnight, Solitaire finds itself bathed in the warm light show of the colors that rise from the sandstone in the primal hours of the day. “It’s all about light and energy,” says Cannon. “On the last album, we really discovered what our sound was, but here we found our groove,” says Wrankle as Istock adds, “With Solitaire we wanted to make a dance album, even if it was the dance of a Scorpion.” “We really wanted to capture the energy of the desert,” Cannon continues. “There is an odd combination of feeling insignificant yet feeling powerful in the desert.”
If you’ve spent any time in the desert of southern Utah, you know that light transforms it into an inter-dimensional space. The spaces and formations and colors are vastly different depending on the light, and as the sun and moon move in the sky. It is alive. It is this sense of life that has 3HATTRIO tied to the mystery of the desert. “Greg loves the heat, but also needs to be in the river each day. Eli grew up here so he just lives it with not much fuss. I find the heat oppressive and avoid it if possible,” says Cannon about how each of the band’s members relate to the hot desert day. “The local Native people here are called Paiute, which basically means ‘people of the water.’ Increasingly I’ve come to realize how important these little areas of oasis are where rivers and streams flow. They define life.” SOLITAIRE highlights and celebrates those hidden springs that make life in the desolate landscape possible.