Rykodisc - 2000 – 41 minutes

'Everything's Fine' – or is it? The soundscape of Willard Grant Conspiracy's latest album is populated with sinners, gamblers and criminals with dark stories to tell: a switchblade-armed dish-washer decides to better himself by buying a gun, stealing a car and taking off to 'find a place to make my name' ('Christmas In Nevada'), while Mary's true love dangles from the hanging tree, dead young from a life of crime ('Southend Of A Northbound Train').

Thematically, several of the songs on 'Everything's Fine' recall Nick Cave's 'Murder Ballads'. Death hangs in the air from the opening, the old narrator of 'Notes From The Waiting Room' accepting that he can't stop his own destruction as he awaits the end. But despite the doom-laden lyrics, the simple melodies are hopeful and even uplifting: redemption is there if you can but take it. Mary will eventually 'wash away all her tears in the river's healing flow', a drunk finds release in the bottom of a glass and ultimately ('Drunkards Prayer'), 'salvation is in the smallest things that life has to deliver' ('Massachusetts'). Maybe everything will turn out fine in the end and in the meantime you couldn't find a better companion for those 3am blues.

Caroline Hennessy

Tracklisting: Notes From The Waiting Room – Christmas In Nevada – Kite Flying – Wicked – Hesitation – Ballad Of John Parker – Southend Of A Northbound Train – The Beautiful Song – Drunkards Prayer – Closing Time - Massachussetts.