Sunday, October 27, 2013

WILLARD GRANT CONSPIRACY IN GLASGOW


MY REVIEW FOR THE AMERICANA-UK WEBSITE

Intense and brooding, fiery and calm, sparse but warm – the changing moods and tones of the Willard Grant Conspiracy musical catalogue embraces and captures an audience, and so it was at this show in the heart of Glasgow, thousands of miles from Robert Fisher’s High Sierra desert home in California.

Seated with viola player and long-time WGC compadre, David Michael Curry to his left and a film show playing over his right shoulder, Fisher induces rapt attention, either through his deep baritone vocals that fit his gothic-folk approach, earnest guitar strumming or jolly between-songs chat.

Not many artistes could claim to write songs in the stark space of the desert, as he’s done for latest release Ghost Republic on the mighty fine Loose Music label or, by contrast, in a fellow WGC member’s bathroom in the well-heeled Glasgow suburb of Bearsden. The latter occurred in the home of Malcolm Lindsay, who produced and arranged with Fisher the 2008 epic, Pilgrim Road and was, along with sometime WGC guitarist, Paul Tasker, in the audience here to witness their big-bearded chum in excellent heart and form.

Critics and fans viewed 2008’s Pilgrim Road as a ‘real’ follow-up to the miserly and death drenched, black veiled classic, Regard The End of 2003, and from its track list he dug out the splendid The Trials of Harrison Hayes and the menacingly eerie, Ghost of the Girl in the Well: “I'm the ghost of the girl in the well: I was trying to hide when my fingers slipped/In the darkness I cried and I cried/All my tears/Taken by the water.”

The dumb pop – Fisher’s description – of the glorious and swooning Soft Hand, minus the ‘woo-hoo, woo-hoo’ hook of the studio version this time round, is always a delight. With Curry’s viola swirling, creaking, scraping and churning so effectively as a foil to Fisher’s guitar and lyrics, the efforts from Ghost Republic – such as Perry Wallis and Rattle and Hiss – offered insights into the abandoned township at the heart of the album.

Desert scenes, starry skies and collaborative poetry ran on a makeshift screen but watching the musicians was hard to ignore.

WGC, and Robert Fisher, never lose style or composure in their spirited and thoughtful output. Thankfully, they can surprise but never discomfit listeners – their ability to be absorbing and darkly personal is, therefore, always deeply welcome.

  

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

GRAM PARSONS' TRIBUTE


GLASGOW AMERICANA FESTIVAL: GRAM PARSONS' TRIBUTE, COTTIER’S,  OCTOBER 6, 2013. 


He may only have been 26 years of age when he died 40 years ago this year, but what a fabulous songbook cosmic cowboy, the man in the nudie suit, Gram Parsons left behind.

The Grievous Angel’s music was celebrated in fine style at a sell-out Glasgow Americana Festival heartfelt tribute night, the final show of the five-day 2013 Festival, too – doing a couple of ‘Grams’ on stage took on a whole new meaning here.

Curated by Kevin Morris, the quiet man behind the Festival for the past seven years and whose Fallen Angels Club’s growing reputation is well-merited, this was a joyous session of songs, some of which have been covered by the biggest names in country music. It was a mighty fine way to spend an evening in a former church in Glasgow’s West End in the company of the converted.

The set list spilled forth with warmth and huge affection by those performing to
be lapped up by fans who have shared Parsons’ music over the years via the International Submarine Band, The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers, and, of course, The Fallen Angels, Emmylou Harris included.

The work of the tortured artiste – whose “Cosmic American Music” mixed soul, country, rock and blues to influence countless bands and singer/songwriters over the past four decades to create what we call alt.country today, or Americana even – was moving, exhilarating and defied the passage of time.

Each performer clearly revered Parson’s songs and delivered versions that would make for an unforgettable album or DVD.

From Irishman, Ben Glover with his gorgeous and passionate Hickory Wind to Canadian duo, Madison Violet’s In My Hour Of Darkness, host-for-the-evening, Roddy Hart’s steely version of Sin City or the wonderfully laconic, James Grant whose Dead Flowers was riveting before he encouraged us to sing the chorus of You Don’t Miss The Water, but only if we stayed in tune.

The Parsonage Choir, named after the man himself, excelled in their cover of She with voices soaring, their pleasure from being involved so heartwarming to see. Return of the Grievous Angel was, not unexpectedly, the perfect finale with all the acts involved in the show on stage, except the choir.

As big fan, the one and only, Keith Richards once said: “Gram was everything you wanted in a singer and a songwriter….. and he could make the chicks cry.”

No-one was in tears but song after song on a memorable night reminded us of a wonderful talent for lyrics and melodies that continue to bring so much pleasure so long after his death.

• The performers were: Roddy Hart, Madison Violet, Ben Glover, James Grant, My Darling Clementine, The City Sinners, The Parsonage Choir.