[Sidebar] The Worcester Phoenix
Feb. 15 - 22, 2001

[Music Reviews]

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*** Willard Grant Conspiracy


(Rykodisc/Slow River)

Few folks can make new music sound as ancient -- or timeless -- as Boston's Willard Grant Conspiracy. Waltz-time last wishes ("Notes from the Waiting Room") and midnight-murder ballads ("Ballad of John Parker") rub elbows with road-trip travelogues ("Christmas in Nevada") and quiet hymns to battered souls ("Drunkard's Prayer") on Everything's Fine. Despite the disc's title, everything here is most definitely not fine for WGC's core songwriting team of Robert Fisher and Paul Austin -- and when it is, it's only for a little while. Which is about right, because just as redemption follows sin, so does more sin often follow redemption (the part they always leave out on those VH1 Behind The Music specials).

With a typically terrific cast of seasoned, sympathetic characters, WGC have, on their fourth full-length disc, again managed to create lantern-lit worlds that flicker with beauty and despair. Like Lambchop or the Handsome Family, WGC -- who again include Peter Linnane (piano), Ray Corvair's Pete Sutton (bass), Come's Chris Brokaw (guitar), and Edith Frost (vocals), among others -- continue to refine an artful chamber-folk approach. "I see salvation in the smallest things," Fisher sings in his cautious baritone on the gorgeous closer, "Massachusetts." The sentiment, like the song, is a frosted winter window into the band's bruised heart.

Jonathan Perry

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