Classic Americana Albums: Willard Grant Conspiracy “Flying Low”

Slow River, 1998

The nineties were abundant with americana bands that brought some serious innovation and new sounds to the genre. Some, like Wilco, made it big. Others, like American Music Club and Willard Grant Conspiracy, built quite a sizable cult base but never made a real wide breakthrough.

One of the reasons might lie in the fact that the latter two explored the darker side of humanity whilst boasting some of the best lyrics found in americana music at the time. Both had mercurial frontmen in Mark Eitzel and Robert Fisher. These days, both bands are no more. Eitizel is now nowhere to be seen or heard, and Fisher himself passed away just about when Willard Grant Conspiracy was starting to gain the traction that they certainly deserved.

While Fisher and his band were around they never made a duff album, starting with ‘3 AM Sunday at Fortune Otto’s’, their somewhat obscure debut to ‘Untethered’, their last, released after Fisher’s death in 2017, ‘Flying Low’, their ‘official’ debut is certainly one of the best americana albums released in the nineties and deserves the title of an americana classic.

Although the album was to be marked by the collective concept by which the band was initially conceived, it was still marked by Fisher’s incredible musical, lyrical and vocal strength. The sparse musical arrangements amplified the dark ambiance of Fisher’s lyrics, while his deep vocals drive the points he makes deep into the listener’s memory, something evident on tracks like ‘House is Not a Home (Palmdale, CA)’ the title of which nods to another dark great artist and album in Arthur Lee and Love’s ‘Forever Changes.’

While the complete album makes an impressive mark, the key lies in one of the most brilliant tracks of dark americana in ‘Evening Mass’:

“She comes alone every evening
Lights as many candles
As she can afford
500 empty seats along the aisle
1000 empty tears in every stain glass window
And, Oh, the Greedy come a calling
And, Oh, the Needy come up wanting again
And, Oh, the Desperate come a courting’
The Lord has come up
Empty again”

With its weary organ and mandolin in the background, Robert Fisher and Willard Grant Conspiracy came up with their best, but the complete album with tracks like ‘Bring the Monster Inside’ or ‘No Such Thing As Clean’ doesn’t lag one inch behind.

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Vudi is thankfully still very much alive, a little more research might do you some good in the future


Eitzel is nowhere to be seen or heard? Gosh, I wonder then who that was I saw live in concert in Austin, TX last weekend.