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WGC frontman Robert Fisher ; Steve Wynn and Silos vocalist Walter Salas-Humara recently got together to tour Britain and Ireland. John Clarkson revels in "a rare chance to catch three remarkable songwriters at their most intimate and stripped down"
The premise of this tour, labelled the 'Song Circle 2002', is a simple one. Four of America's best singer- songwriters-Willard Grant Conspiracy frontman Robert Fisher ; Deanna Varagona from Lambchop ; ex-Dream Syndicate member and solo artist Steve Wynn, and Walter Salas-Humara, vocalist with country blues trio, the Silos-have got together to play a unique three week series of shows across Britain and Ireland. Emphasis is put firmly on the traditional with Fisher, who has come up with the idea, and his friends, like their "front porch" folk and blues forefathers, taking turn about to play songs, swop stories and to help out on each other's numbers as they feel appropriate.
The best ideas are often the most basic ones. The always entertaining Varagona has unfortunately had to drop out of the latter shows and all the Scottish dates because of a prior commitment at a Spanish festival ,but this still allows for a rare evening of intimacy and spontaneity, with the three tour survivors pulling songs out of their song book upon mood and whim, and not deciding what they are going to play next until they are about to play it.
Fisher picks the bulk of his songs from the last Willard Grant Conspiracy album 'Everything's Fine', and a new title-yet-to-be-confirmed CD from the Boston collective which is due out early in the New Year. 'The Ballad of John Parker', named after "a Seattle basketball coach", and taken from 'Everything's Fine', is sung alla cappella. The reflective 'Fare Thee Well',about a love gone sour, and the stark, harrowing 'Suffering', about a mother's death and a boy's decision to flee his oppressive, religious family, both from the new album, meanwhile bode well for the future.
The quietly charming Salas-Humara, who is on his first visit to Scotland, in contrast plays a selection of songs from the nine Silos and solo albums of his twenty year career. The wistful 'Susan Across the Ocean' tells of a long languished affair which expands across both the seas and decades, while the comical 'You look Like Sheila', about a case of mistaken identity, has him finishing each chorus with an extended twenty second howl. Wynn manwhile get the biggest round of applause of the evening with the rousing, caustic 'Southern California Line'from his new album 'Here Coes the Miracles', which finds him accompanied on stuttering electric guitar by Salas-Humara using his guitar case as a drum kit and Fisher on rattling harmonica.
It is, however, the small details of the night, as much as anything else, that makes this show so magical. A concerned Salas-Humara offers Fisher a water bottle when he tries to surpress a coughing fit during one of Wynn's songs. Fisher and Salas-Humara pass Salas-Humara's battered acoustic guitar back and forth like a sacred instrument when Fisher snaps a string. The impish Wynn meanwhile makes waspish jokes about Los Angeles, a city which all three have lived in and hated, and the trio's tendency to concentrate on "suicide, death and murder". All in all a very special evening, and a rare chance to catch three remarkable songwriters at their most intimate and stripped down.
The photographs that accompany this article were take by Laufrent Orseau from www.hinah.com , Giulio Molfese and Daniel Coston