Fisher, King & Leven – Live, The Underbelly Edinburgh, Sunday 12th August 2007
Toad ignorance abounded at this particular show – I basically came because I love The Willard Grant Conspiracy, Robert Fisher’s group, but I know very little either of Scottish folk legend Jackie Leven, nor of Michael Weston King, one time lead singer of English alt-folk act The Good Sons.
Still, music in the round like this often makes for a brilliant evening. I go to live performances to understand more about the music I am listening to: both where it comes from and the person who makes it. As such, this was a perfect evening. Messrs King, Leven and Fisher got on really well and all had a nice laid back stage manner.
They’d take it in turns to talk you through a song, explain how it had come into being or why they liked it and then they’d play it. Occasionally they’d chip and help each other out, bringing a little extra layer of subtle depth to the sound when needed.
Given that The Willard Grant Conspiracy consists of about 38 members it is pretty much inevitable that Robert Fisher has to cut the numbers down slightly to tour and given his ever-expanding collection of collaborators now sprawls across Europe as well it must be quite rewarding for him to tour alone and take up with whomever from his diaspora of cohorts happens to be most local.
I was lucky in that he happened to play what was not far off a ‘Toad Best of…’ from the Willards’ back catalogue. Hearing songs like Drunkard’s Prayer and Fare Thee Well with no more embellishment than a gently strummed guitar and Fisher’s deep, rich voice is a heck of a treat. He is similar to Mark Lanegan in that he can fill a room without seeming to make any effort, but Fisher’s voice is less scary than Lanegan’s. You may feel that he knows more sorrow than you can imagine, but you never get the same impression of demonic possession than Lanegan can evince.
I enjoyed Leven and King’s stuff as well, I have to say. And it was a real surprise to hear King play a Phil Ochs classic as his last song. It was a great gig, all in all: really satisfying to watch these three interact and chatter and play some songs. It could almost have been someone’s living room.
Willard Grant Conspiracy – Fare Thee Well
Willard Grant Conspiracy – Day is Passed and Gone
Jackie Leven – Another Man’s Rain
Phil Ochs – Jim Dean of Indiana I guarantee you won’t have heard a better or sadder song for a very, very long time.