There’s nothing like a (non-cash grab) posthumous album. Whether it’s the bombastic defiance of Queen’s Made In Heaven, or Johnny Cash’s monumental American recordings, the swirl of emotions is something to behold and drink in.
This is true of the Willard Grant Conspiracy’s final album. The country/rock/punk/all-of-the-above-at-the-same-time rotating band of musicians was anchored until last year by Robert Fisher. His long-time friend and violist, David Michael Curry, has finished the final set of recordings Fisher was working on before his death in February 2017.
It is, as you would expect, a sombre journey, with none of the balls-to-the-wall strut of 2006’s Let It Roll, but plenty of reflection. Musically, it’s close to Lambchop’s Nixon (members of that band were part of the 30-odd musicians who made up the WGC over the years) and Dylan’s Time Out Of Mind, excepting the one or two instrumentals that might as well be in the dictionary under “Generic Alt-Country”. Yet there’s beauty here that can only come with the twilight, as memories of days spent idling coalesce into regrets at choices lost. One track ends with the refraining chorus of “If I could choose Saturday afternoon with Jane…”, and you can almost hear the ellipsis, as if nothing matters now the sand is trickling into the bottom of the hourglass. Let The Storm Be Your Pilot is similarly graceful in its execution, the minimalism ramping up into a whirlpool of guitars with reverb-heavy country twang and buzzsawing slide that draws out a flat-line into the fade out. It’s tremendous, as is the rest of this evocative, enriching set, the kind of music that lives up to the gravity of the name of its final track: Trails End.
A beautiful final set from a man and a band that always deserved more.