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.