Category: william crighton

Album review: Take Me to Town

TMTTCov-700x622.jpgTake Me to Town may count as one album but it’s actually three CDs full of Australian alternative country music artists, some of whom will be familiar to readers of this blog – such as Tracy McNeil, The Weeping Willows, Lachlan Bryan, William Crighton and Jen Mize – and some who may be unknown simply because they are new.

Take Me to Town is the creation of Dave Favours from Sydney label Stanley Records, in concert with Chris Hamilton of Americana site Post to Wire, and Areatha Bryant of Mother Hen Touring. The trio decided on a list of artists and also secured some tracks that are exclusive to this release, from Ben Leece (who is about to release his debut album) and the always-compelling Katie Brianna, Sam Newton, Den Hanrahan, Peta Caswell and the increasingly prominent Michael Carpenter. Indeed, almost half the songs are exclusive to the compilation, so if you’re a country music fan who is wondering if it’s worth purchasing, that alone should convince you.

I’m fond of saying that country music is a broad umbrella and this compilation is proof that alternative country, too, deserves that description. The 47 tracks demonstrate that alt-country is flourishing around the land and pushing that genre, and Australian country music in general, into bold territory. There are elements of traditional country forms in these songs, reworked in a contemporary way or with a vocal flourish that creates something interesting. In some ways the compilation is an education about how country music is being interpreted and fashioned by new or new-is artists, and also how the work of more established artists like Lachlan Bryan and The Weeping Willows compares with songs from emerging artists. In this way the compilation also serves an almost anthropological purpose: the artists on this album are all pretty much from the same generation, yet how they approach their work is 47 ways of different.

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Album review: William Crighton

My introduction to William Crighton and his music came in a church hall in Sydney’s Paddington a few weeks ago. He was supporting Melody Pool and as he appeared onstage, his tall frame covered by a lumberjack shirt, jeans and boots, he looked like he belonged on Mount Kosciuszko, hewing logs out of massive trees. Then he opened his mouth to sing and everything else went quiet. At first I couldn’t quite get a handle on his voice: his rolling, tumbling way of articulating lyrics took a little bit of getting used to but after one song it seemed logical. There was no other way for him to sing. There was no other way to want him to sing.
The songs on Crighton’s debut self-titled album were, as he says in the liner notes, written when he lived near Burrinjuck Dam in south-western New South Wales. The relative solitude of that part of that world can be heard in the space between notes and lyrics that is characteristic of the ten songs (and one extra version of ‘Woman like you’) on this remarkable piece of work.
On ‘2000 clicks’, written with his brother, Crighton references Cold Chisel and offers an alternative anthem for young Australian men, as he does on ‘Riverina kid’. On ‘Woman like you’ he sings ‘I’d never treat a woman like you like that’ which immediately prompts the question, Which woman would you treat like that?And that’s part of the appeal of this album: it’s a challenge, and it makes the listener concentrate and think, for profound rewards. Those rewards include the knowledge that you’re listening to a jewel, something as close to unique as it’s possible to get in a world where everything seems to reference everything else and there’s nothing new under the sun.
It’s clear why Pool chose him to accompany her on tour: despite great differences in musical style, they both understand how to write layered lyrics; how to be honest and mysterious at the same time; how to deliver a song so straight that it’s heartbreaking. Neither is interested in fakery, nor in being unsophisticated.
Crighton’s album leaves an indelible impression, as does his live performance. He is, at least to my way of thinking, one of the most important Australian singer-songwriters to emerge in the last few years. His reference to Cold Chisel is not an idiosyncrasy: several of their songs documented Australian life in a way no other act’s did at the time, and Crighton has taken that tree-felling axe and cracked open a similar vein in the earth. The Australian landscape, the distance between us, the way we tell ourselves and each other she’ll be right, mateand mean it even when we don’t, are all in these songs. This is not just an important album, it’s a bloody good one – and that’s the highest compliment any Australian can give. 
William Crighton is out now through ABC Music/Universal.