Nothin' Lastin' was announced in June with the single “Thirty-Six Miles”. This reintroduction to Cannon's work arrived like a wide angle shot that opens a grand western epic film, scanning a vast sky and red desert cliffs. Yet, inevitably the camera zooms in to the intimacy of life in this mythic place, the American southwest.
Cannon’s life work has been all about documenting and exploring the cultural and natural landscape of this place. But this new album, Nothin’ Lastin’, is also personal and intimate. The songs, a cry of impermanence and the quest to find solid ground.
Cannon’s songwriting often exists in a timeless space; simultaneously capable of paying tribute to the past, while also observing the present, and considering the future. In “Thirty-Six Miles” we received a vivid example of this approach as Cannon alternates verses that hint at past tragedy with the repeating refrain “Shalako”. That being the name of an annual Zuni ceremony that gives thanks for the harvest and blesses new homes in the community. With its aura of hushed reverence and gently picked banjo patterns, the lead-off single eased us into the boundless world that is captured amongst the thirteen tracks on the Nothin’ Lastin’ album.
The single "Don't Look Back" followed with its gently-insistent banjo and percussion backing a vocal that reflects on an important lesson learned through Cannon's career as a folklorist. That it is possible to love the past while still embracing the future. As he notes, "my job has been to celebrate tradition. I love tradition and yet I've seen it smother the life out of art, politics and conversation." For Cannon, there is wonder and excitement in exploring the road ahead. The song encapsulates this outlook in the final verse, which states “It’s the comfort of tradition that can lead us to submission. Just stay true and try to be kind. Truly seek and ye shall find“. The hopeful prayer of "Silver Dove" and the morbid noir of "Tarantula March" were the final single releases. Perhaps more than any other two tracks on Nothin’ Lastin’ these two cuts showcase the breadth of Cannon’s topical range and his curiosity with the world around him. The desert world at his feet, as well as the world (and its people) at large.
Despite Cannon’s lengthy resumé as a member of the Deseret String Band, Red Rock Rondo, 3hattrio, and as a solo performer, the topical reach of Nothin’ Lastin’ makes it his most expansive project yet. “Years Go Down” offers a touching reflection on seasoned love, the title-track brings a sense of peace to impermanence, “Our Fathers” explores the motivations of Cannon’s ancestors' journey to Utah, and “Silver Dove” offers a brooding reflection on religion and hope.
Hal Cannon writes his songs at the intersection of the Mojave Desert, Great Basin and Colorado Plateau in southern Utah, on the edge of Zion National Park. His music is intrinsically linked to this landscape and its history; at times, starkly simple and honest, at other times vibrantly colorful in its arrangements and lyrical imagery. He is best-known for his work touring and recording with 3hattrio. Together for a decade, the group has six highly-acclaimed albums to their credit and have toured extensively, particularly in Europe, where they were named best band of 2018 in the annual AmericanaUK Readers’ Poll. They have had hit performances at the prestigious Celtic Connections, Tønder Festival and the Gothenburg Culture Festival. The music of 3hattrio has been lauded by media tastemakers including; American Songwriter, Magnet, No Depression, Relix and many more.
Beyond his work as a musician, Cannon has served as the founding director of the Western Folklife Center and its annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, produced scores of cultural features for NPR, and has been researching and performing pioneer music since the early 1970’s.
“I’ve been a folklorist, an explorer, all of my life. With Nothin’ Lastin', I bare my soul, a territory balancing near the precipice. I only ask you listen to my songs with an open heart.” Hal Cannon