Album Review – Conrad Fisher’s “Homemade”

photo: Zachariah Malachi

Bringing acrimony to every corner and crevice of American life in the foolish notion that our enemy is each other has robbed us of so much of the joy of living, including in music where you can’t simply enjoy a record without being told it’s some conscious choice to align yourself on one side of the cultural divide or the other.

It makes you fear that gone are the days when you could just slip a Don Williams record out of its sleeve, and the dulcet, soothing voice of the Gentle Giant would reset your entire world, subduing frayed nerves, compartmentalizing cares, bringing perspective to worries, and reminding you what a gift it is to just breathe and be.

Thankfully though, Pennsylvania-born singer and songwriter Conrad Fisher isn’t convinced of this outcome, and does his level best to recapture that decompressing quality of a carefully crafted song in this 12-song set aptly titled Homemade. Handling most of the instrumentation himself, it’s fair to call Homemade homespun with its fairly skeleton production and simple approach. But like an afternoon spent tending a garden, or a long talk with your grandfather, reading a book on a sunny window sill, or sipping a jar of tea on a hot day, it’s the simple pleasure in it that sets you straight.

Homemade comes after Conrad Fisher’s own personal reset. Spending three years in Nashville trying to make it as a songwriter while hauling cadavers for Williamson Memorial to help make ends meet, he was finally able to land a publishing deal, but decided he’d had enough, and headed back to the farm in Pennsylvania. Growing up of Amish descent, he naturally yearns for the slower approach to life, and that comes through in his music, and infers the first song from the album, Bobby Charles’s “Tennessee Blues”—one of the few songs Conrad didn’t write, but one that still feels personal and wholly appropriate.

The plan was to record this album with a full fledged band. But COVID restrictions put a crimp in that scheme. This isn’t meant to be the finished product of Conrad Fisher the songwriter, just the start. But the songwriting certainly sifts this project to the top of the heap for those on the search for quality songcraft, and the music compliments this by putting the song first.

Homemade isn’t all positive thoughts and puppy dog tales, though. Stoking gratefulness is not all about acting life isn’t full of rough turns and tragedy. In fact many of the songs are about meeting with death and troubles head on in a way that builds commiseration for others out there who have been through similar experiences, whether it’s the death of a loved one, or dealing with someone in the throes of addiction. Conrad writes in a way where his music is strongly influenced by the earliest foundational narratives of country, but re-imagined in a way that always feels very personal to both himself, and to the audience.

“Undertaker” takes many of the ideas found in “Will The Circle Be Unbroken,” and makes them digestible to the modern audience. “Reasons and Rhymes” is just the kind of sappy love song we used to hear so many more of, and has unfortunately fallen out-of-style in popular music. “Hello Sunshine” reminds you starkly of Buck Owens, and the simple appeal of West Coast country. Homemade is not perfect since it was a done from a deficit of resources, but it most certainly sets a strong foundation for a songwriter we hope to hear more from in the future.

So much of happiness is simply making up your mind to be so, and putting on the right perspective. With so many people looking to profiteer from division these days, and the attention economy predicated upon pitting people against each other, we need antidotes such as the songs of Conrad Fisher to restore equilibrium, and remind us that the pursuit of happiness is what we’re all after, and sometimes the easiest route to it is to offer sunshine to somebody else.

7.5/10

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