Willard Grant Conspiracy
Let It Roll
One of the pitfalls of having an ever-expanding collective as your backing band is that inevitably, excess is going to define your sound. With Let It Roll, this has finally become the case for Willard Grant Conspiracy. What’s interesting about the type of excess brought out in songs like the title track and “Dance With Me” is that they’re massive in length rather than instrumentation. With the former clocking in at nine-plus minutes and the latter at seven, 16 minutes are spent drawing loose sketches around repetitive four-chord song structures on both tracks. Each song, taken on its own, would be fine – though both could stand some pruning – but taken back-to-back it’s just too much. Songwriter Robert Fisher seems set on giving the majority of his songs an epic sound; it’s alternately compelling and annoying because at their core, these are simple folk songs, and there are moments that arise where the chaos is mesmerizing but also times when it becomes apparent that a song would benefit from less of an onslaught on all fronts.
All this isn’t meant to make it sound like this album is without good qualities, because they’re here in abundance. The opener, “From a Distant Shore,” features a heartbreaking horn melody, a minimal guitar riff and tasteful restraint from the backing musicians. “Flying Low” is a bouncy pop number with a gorgeous string lead supporting Fisher’s almost Springsteen-esque character study of working-class kids. The crisp, desert-dry treatment given to Dylan’s “Ballad of a Thin Man” is a great inclusion as well. Fisher’s vocal performance here, and throughout the record, is deep and rich, haggard and empathic and is perhaps Willard Grant Conspiracy’s greatest asset.
Like the group’s previous albums, Let It Roll is fairly evenly split between genius and tedium. One day Willard Grant Conspiracy will have an excellent career-spanning compilation, but until then, making your own mix CD is your best bet.
Willard Grant Conspiracy: http://www.willardgrantconspiracy.com