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Willard Grant Conspiracy

Everything's Fine – 2001 (Slow River/Rykodisc)

Reviewed by Nick A. Zaino III

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CDs by Willard Grant Conspiracy

Listening to the Willard Grant Conspiracy is like walking into an old room full of photos of a long departed friend. There is joy, a pervasive sense of sadness, a discovery of familiar places and an affirmation that life goes on. The band's fourth full-length offers another brilliant set of snapshots. Robert Fisher delivers each story in his trademark lonesome baritone, telling tales from across the American landscape. "Christmas in Nevada" tells of a character surrounded by cheerful sights in a town where he has played his best hand and is ready to move on. The stark "Massachusetts" is the story of someone who has moved on and can't quite get comfortable in his new surroundings.

Every character Fisher and his writing partner Paul Austin create is facing the choice of either giving up or plunging into the next cycle of their lives, wherever it may take them.

The music itself is rich and inviting, even at its most spare. A pick rakes across the strings of an acoustic guitar, a gentle phrase skates across the keys of a piano, an electric guitar moans off in the distance. Each part is as clear and crisp. Willard Grant Conspiracy's music often gets labeled as melancholy, but there's something a lot more satisfying, something that resonates deeper than that, once it has soaked in.