Alt-country band Willard Grant Conspiracy are set to play the Crescent Arts Centre in Belfast on Saturday 12th September, thanks to No Alibis Bookstore.
“Ghost Republic” is the first album from Willard Grant Conspiracy since “Paper Covers Stone” (2009) and the first album of entirely new music since “Pilgrim Road” (2008). The album was written and recorded in Massachusetts by David Michael Curry and Robert Fisher of Willard Grant Conspiracy.
Although the band was formed in Boston, Massachusetts in 1995 and was based there for many years, Fisher moved back to his native California and has been living in the high desert since 2006. The ensuing years have seen numerous incarnations of the band, both live and on record. But one of the most enduring partnerships seems to be the one Fisher has with Curry. In many ways Ghost Republic is a celebration of this musical partnership. David Michael Curry is the band’s principle viola player and a longtime musical foil for Fisher’s evocative baritone. The viola and other instruments that Curry plays on “Ghost Republic” offer examples of his unique style that has made him a valued member of WGC during the history of the band as well as a constant member of the Thalia Zedek Band, the Hidden Tooth noise ensemble where he works with guitarist Chris Brokaw and his own Empty House Cooperative.
Here Robert Fisher tells of the origins of the Ghost Republic album “First there is living in the high desert. Lancaster. Quartz Hill. Littlerock. Pearblossom. A far flung corner of the county of Los Angeles. A place for the forgotten and for those the rest of the city wishes to forget. Land of the Joshua Trees. Land of the Rattlesnakes. The Mojave Green. An Outpost. The Devil’s Punchbowl. An inhospitable place that men have forced themselves upon in an uneasy truce between cheap land and great ambition. This land still has teeth and venom. The Border. Heading east, the next stop is Mojave, Death Valley or the Eastern Sierra Mountains where towns have names like Lone Pine and Independence. And the road negotiates with places like Convict Creek and Mono Lake. A road less travelled.”
And then there is Bodie – a ghost town high in the Sierras. Closed and abandoned to time and elements, this once thriving mining town is now frozen as it stood when the gates were locked and the town was returned to the ground it rose from. It is the subject of a hallucinatory group of collaborative poems written by a loose confederation of poets for a book conceived and organized by the California based poet and artist Nicelle Davis. Robert Fisher was asked by Davis to add a character to the book. The words begin to flow and they begin to sound like music. This, in turn, results Ghost Republic, the album.
Managing at turns to sound skeletal, fully fleshed and all stages in-between, this is elemental music that does not fear simplicity. The songs are so intimate that it often seems like being inside the heads of the musicians while the songs were being written, illuminated by the beauty of the interplay of viola and guitars. Fisher and Curry work magic with simple repeated melodies, a song like “Oh, We Wait “gains power and nuance with each repeated line, like a meditation: “oh we wait and the tears won’t come”. The Only Child is a character study of isolation and acceptance as the main character Mary looks to “light the tapers and sleep like swallows”. The simple and lovely song Ghost Republic is an exercise in memory where the narrator recalls “the bow and arch of tendons” of a lover. The sinister Rattle and Hiss recounts a nightmare of finding a nest of rattlesnakes beneath the bed before declaring with equal parts menace and great sorrow “Your God takes no notice”. One of the highlights of the record is Curry’s first self-penned song in sixteen years; “Piece of Pie” is a sweet apology and a promise to a loved one when he ends the song singing “wood smoke and chocolate bars, we’ll get it right”. Curry’s viola plaintively executes a melody over Fisher’s acoustic fingerpicking of the lullaby “Good Morning Wadlow” and as his voice sings the line “good morning to the brother who has never lost the thread”, it makes perfect sense. The song ends with the line “Good Morning Wadlow, we’re glad you are still around” and we could say the same of Willard Grant Conspiracy.
Ghost Republic, the Record is available on Loose. Ghost Republic the Book, is being published by Ampersand. The Film of Ghost Republic, will be available for viewing on your favourite media sites.