Three Cane Whale – 303: Album Review

Three Cane Whale – 303

Release Date: 28th February 2020

Label: Field Notes Records

Formats: CD, DL

An unusual combination of instruments and an album named after a trunk road. That’s 303 from Three Cane Whale, the acoustic chamber folk trio.

Ah yes, Three Cane Whale. Had a close encounter with them back in 2016 at the English Folk Expo/Homegrown event in Bury and of course, Alex Vann also plays in Spiro. They’re a favourite of the insanely talented Sam Sweeney who plays in Leveret with Rob Harbron. You can possibly see where this is leading…

You can like as not add Rob Harbron to the mix as the ‘fourth member’ of Three Cane Whale in his capacity as recording engineer. Having already set the tone with the band’s second album Holts & Hovers, he’s worked his magic again on 303.

To be fair to Rob, it’s a wonderful capture with the album title coming from the A303 trunk road that runs through the landscape that inspires this set of tunes. Tunes that were recorded live in a series of locations in South Somerset and whose ambience is used to great effect in providing linking vignettes between the music.

Pay rapt attention and you’ll hear footsteps and the creak of a gate that announce the musicians arrival before the resonance of each location playing as much a part in the arrangement. Live from the slopes of Cadbury Castle, in churches and tearooms, the intimacy and intricacy that the four coax out is quite something.

Add in the collection of unusual instruments that the trio use to bring the music to life – yes, we know the mandolin and hammered dulcimer, but the bowed psaltery? Plus the trumpet, cornet and tenor horn that Pete Judge brings to the party and there’s an unlikely combination of acoustic strings and brass.

Without singling out any particular composition, there’s a light and airy feel to the twelve pieces that reference the locations. From Crooked Bank (alleged site of King Arthur’s last battle) to SS 91089 04944 that’s exactly what it sounds like – a grid reference to the church in which the mandolin solo was recorded – 303 is a lovely rustic journey of discovery.

While you’re not going to find Three Cane Whale or their music in any of the mainstream features or high profile music presses, there’s a real craft about their work that shows in 303.

Watch the trio play The Huddling Place here:

Three Cane Whale online: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Bandcamp

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