EVER since William Crighton spectacularly announced himself on his self-titled debut, his music has been imbued with the spirit of the Australian bush.
Early songs like 2000 Clicks and Riverina Kid traded in nostalgia and childhood memories of growing up in the country, but the Hunter Valley-based artist's third album Water and Dust channels the bush directly.
Rather than being the scene for his musings, Crighton is telling the bush's own story. Its rage. Its memories. Its myths. Its beauty.
Crighton assembled an impressive list of collaborators on Water and Dry including Midnight Oil duo Jim Moginie and Rob Hirst, guitar maestro Jeff Lang, acclaimed didgeridoo player William Barton and his wife Julieanne.
Moginie and Hirst's influence is telling on the rollicking Your Country and the straight-ahead rocker Stand. Any past country leanings are cast aside as Hirst hammers the skins on Stand, a track he co-wrote with Crighton and Julieanne.
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The album's signature track is the eight-minute convict epic, Killara, about a Scottish man who becomes inspired by an Aboriginal woman. It builds into a wild cacophony of didgeridoo, guitar and harmonies.
Elsewhere, Crighton's musical palette has expanded. The Wheel - inspired by the constant impact of technology - is a foreboding mix of folk, blues and psych rock. The title track and opener is a six-minute epic in which Crighton channels the brooding intensity of Eddie Vedder with, "We are the children/ Water and dust/ We belong to mother/ She don't belong to us."
This Is Magic and Keep Facing The Sunshine lighten the mood and showcase Crighton's respect for pop melodies, but both sound misplaced among Water and Dust's stronger material. Those include Crighton's '60s-style re-imagining of Henry Lawson's 1896 poem After All (Good World). When Crighton sings sadly the 126-year-old words of "I must believe that the world, my dear, is a kind world after all," they feel unique to our current climate.
Crighton continues to evolve and marvel. Water and Dust is his finest work.