Loose - 2003 - 47 minutes

Since the release of 2000's 'Everything's Fine', it's been an unsettled few years for the Boston-based Willard Grant Conspiracy. WGC has always been a collective of musicians, loosely grouped around band members Robert Fisher and Paul Austin. Now Austin has called it a day, with credits on just two songs from 'Regard the End', and WGC has also parted from their US record label, Slow River.

But Robert Fisher remains, an unstoppable powerhouse of a man with an innate belief in the unifying powers of music. For 'Regard the End', he gathered a 30-strong international community of American and European musicians to create what is arguably the most powerful album in the band's eight-year career. The mixture of Appalachian folk, slave songs and traditional airs sit comfortably alongside Fisher's own compositions making a seamless union between new and old.

Singalong 'The Trials of Harrison Hayes' and the quiet building intensity of 'The Suffering Song' are interposed with the Southern Gothic of 'The Ghost of the Girl in the Well', accentuated by an eerie blend of violin, saw and Kristen Hersh's voice. More vocal contributions come from frequent touring partner Jess Klein who makes a welcome appearance on several tracks, most notably 'Fare Thee Well'. With loss and acceptance dominant themes throughout, the Conspiracy tackle bluegrass with trumpets on 'Day is Past and Done' and 'Twistification' is an old time waltz.

Rather than bring the band to a conclusion, 'Regard the End' is a new beginning for the Willard Grant Conspiracy.

Caroline Hennessy

Tracklisting: River In The Pines - The Trials Of Harrison Hayes - Beyond The Shore - The Ghost Of The Girl In The Well - Twistification - Another Man Is Gone - Soft Hand - Rosalee - Fare Thee Well - Day Is Passed And Gone - The Suffering Song