Authenticity is the element that defines the darkly beautiful and wrenching debut record of William Crighton.
For the deep-voiced songwriter and intense live performer, there were no short cuts taken to arrive at this self-titled album. Beneath each track are thousands of kilometres, and within are stories wrought of trees and roads and dust, soaked in the essence of our ancient continent.
“I love traveling our Earth and will be forever thankful to her for letting me become such a part of her that I feel as long as I look after her I'm welcome wherever I choose to roam," Crighton says.
Recorded in a house on the rugged banks of Burrinjuck Dam, near the South West Slopes region of NSW, the record paints a vivid picture of its protagonist: philosopher, romantic and a “pacifist who sometimes fantasises of killing”. The eleven tracks, which feature Crighton’s wife Jules on backing vocals and brother Luke on bass guitar, are produced by Matt Sherrod and shift between whimsical ballads and full-blooded, expansive rock sojourns.
“Amongst other things I'm a father, husband and son,” Crighton says, “and like all of us I'm a lover, hater, fighter, victim, perpetrator, grower and harvestor.”
Woven into Crighton’s classic folk-rock sensibility is vivid prose. These tales are alive with visceral imagery and the echoes of a spiritual upbringing. In ‘Riverina Kid’ a snake winds up the riverbank, a boy’s found hanging; In ‘2000 Clicks’, the adult Crighton stares into the reflection of his childhood; In the thundering tale of retribution ‘Priest’, a pedophilic man of the cloth meets his demise. ‘Jesus Blues’ and ‘Dig Your Mind’ exemplify the ragged, sweltering rock that Crighton can command, while ‘Smile’ is the songwriter’s gentle reminder to do just that.
“I have good memories of paddling down the Goobragandra River with my brother Luke avoiding tiger snakes and catching fish,” Crighton says. “We'd cast into where the water wraps around one particular river gum, the deeper water slows the current down and fish wait for insects and other things to wash into view. Witnessing a rainbow trout strike a lure under reflections of golden wattle through ripples of muddy water told me more than the TV ever will.”
Crighton’s religious upbringing was, in its own way, as formative as his young years spent on the land. “I got real comfort as a kid praying with Nan and I still believe in the universal message of peace that Jesus echoed but I don't identify myself as a religious person these days,” he says.
The record’s centerpiece, the gripping and heartfelt ‘Woman Like You’, proves equally potent with two separate treatments. The song appears midway as a sparse, slow-building ballad and returns as a loud finale, a reprise that feels both natural and essential. But such is the diverse and timeless quality of Crighton’s songwriting. Such is its sincerity. Such is its authenticity.
“I believe music is an essential part of our current experience and I am truly grateful to be able to share mine with you,” Crighton says.
“Life is beautiful, torturous and short.”