ELKO -- Hang on to your hats! South Utah’s musical trio will be hitting the stage for multiple performances at the 32nd National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

Guitar and banjo player Hal Cannon is no stranger to the Gathering -- he was one of the founders and has attended every year-- but this will be his first time coming as a featured artist. Cannon was also the founding director of the Western Folklife Center.

“I’ve always wanted to be an artist on the program,” Cannon told the Free Press.

Cannon lived in the Elko area for eight years, but worked within the community for more than 30 years, he said. He retired several years ago in Pocketville, Utah, where he unexpectedly joined the musical scene.

“It’s my life now,” he said.

The 3hattrio (said “Three Hat Trio”) features Cannon on guitar and banjo, Eli Wrankle on violin and Greg Istock on the stand-up bass.

“We play what we call 'American desert music,'” Cannon said.

Their South Utah home doesn’t get much snow, and lies on the edge of Zion National Park. Cannon and Istock write songs about desert life and cowboy traditions.

“We get together almost every single day,” Cannon said.

The band started when its youngest player, Wrankle, was only 15 years old. Wrankle's family hosted a fundraiser recital for his high school orchestra. The three musicians got together and have been playing for the past four years.

Each band member has a unique musical background, but Cannon believes they compliment one other.

“When the West was settled, people came from all different backgrounds,” he said.

Cannon’s early musical life focused around folk music of the American West. Istock is originally from Florida, where he spent 30 years exploring Carribean music, according to the band’s website. Wrankle had a classical background, Cannon said.

Cannon has also played with the Deseret String Band and the Red Rock Rondo, but at age 67, he feels like his musical career has only just begun.

“I feel like I’ve totally started my creative life,” he said.

The 3hattrio songs are more popular among a younger audience, and increasingly in Europe. Cannon hopes to host a tour in Belgium, France and Italy.

On Spotify, the band’s most popular song is “The Crippled-up Blues,” he said. Cannon wrote it after a knee replacement.

“I was sort of feeling sorry for myself,” he said.

Other popular songs include “Get on the Bus” and “Sand Storm.” The latter depicts a feeling of “being swallowed up by the storm” while on horseback. Cannon said while he’s never ridden in a sandstorm at full-gallop, he has been in one before.

3hattrio has a few performances lined up for the Gathering. On Friday, listeners can catch the band in the Elko Convention Center auditorium. Artist William Matthews will be painting a landscape to the sounds of American desert music. The painting will be auctioned off during the Gathering to benefit the Western Folklife Center.

“We’re going to be playing this sort of ethereal desert music,” Cannon said.

The band also planned to join in on a “Bucking the Tradition” performance Saturday afternoon in the G Three Bar Theater, where the audience will experience “strange versions of cowboy songs.”

For information, visit 3hattrio.com.


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