Willard Grant Conspiracy(Website)
Willard Grant Conspiracy is an alt country band currently based near Palmdale, California.
Originally formed in 1995 in Boston, Massachusetts by Robert Fisher and Paul Austin, the band operates as a collective, with vocalist Fisher the only permanent member. Up to thirty other musicians occasionally contribute to the band, both in the studio and during live performances. WGC are currently signed to the independent Glitterhouse Records, having previously released on Rykodisc and Kimchee Records.
The band toured extensively in 2005 and 2006 visiting twenty-three countries, including a showcase at the South by Southwest music festival.
Fisher’s voice and Americana style have been compared to both John Cale and Johnny Cash, with most songs being acoustic.
The band’s most recent album Pilgrim Road was released on June 24, 2008. Their 2003 release Regard The End, featuring Kristin Hersh as well as Chris Eckman of The Walkabouts, received critical acclaim with UNCUT magazine naming it album of the month.
Paul Austin now plays in The Transmissionary Six with Terri Moeller of The Walkabouts.
Label: Loose / Glitterhouse
Release date: January 01, 2008
Produced and arranged by Fisher and Scottish composer Malcolm Lindsay, the mix of violin, cello, pump organ, horns and woody guitars is beautifully interwoven, creating a sombre, intense mood-piece with fleeting moments of uplift. Such a highlight is “The Great Deceiver”, a gospel duet with Fisher and Iona MacDonald pleading for God and saviour before the massed voices of a choir. Or “The Pugilist”, in which Fisher offers up a bleak sermon like a condemned man at a pulpit: “God and devil wrestle for our souls / I’m bowed out and broken / Shot full of holes”. There’s a lovely instant, around two minutes in, where his voice soars skyward as if making a final dash for freedom.
It’s a testament to Fisher and Lindsay’s powers of assimilation that the two covers here – Lal Waterson’s “Phoebe” and American Music Club’s “Miracle On 8th Street” – fit into the chamber-folk whole like they were their very own. On the latter, particularly, Fisher has rarely sounded so tender, his baritone softened by the saddest of trumpets. Full of dark grandeur, Pilgrim Road is exceptional.
Let it Roll
Label: Loose / Glitterhouse
Release date: January 01, 2006
Boston-based music group Willard Grant Conspiracy sure knows how to make a music critic’s job tough. Whereas most bands can be blithely described with a few words, WGC practically requires a new genre tag. Stylistically, it’s got strong folk-rock and rootsy overtones but isn’t exactly Americana. Instead, WGC couches the disquieting angst of Nick Cave and Leonard Cohen in the baroque-like elegance of Belle & Sebastian at their most melancholic. Lead singer Robert Fisher’s smooth, contemplative baritone has a winning straightforwardness mingled with world-weariness and suspicion. On the ditty “Flying Low,” he croons, “And I dreamed I saw the angels flying low/They encompass all that’s good, or so I’m told.” The album is lent orchestral savor by the regal-sounding violin/viola of Josh Hillman and the yearning trumpet of guest Dennis Cronin. Rendering Roll more cathartic than depressing is WGC’s occasional forays into wrenching rockin’ dissonance à la Roxy Music and John Cale-era Velvet Underground. Dylan fans may not like the droll, thundering rendition of his “Ballad of a Thin Man.” With WGC, it appears that glum is good.
BROWARD NEW TIMES by Mark Keresman