If William Crighton went into a recording studio for seven days in a row, he would come out with a different album every day.
Of course, he strives for perfection but, more importantly, he's always pushing to get the most of out of the moment. And he realises that every day - every hour means a new vibe, the opportunity to capture something special.
Water & Dust is full of those moments.
It has intensity, and anger, and sadness. But also hope. Above all, it feels genuine.
"I feel the reward is more if I just be myself, write from my heart, play from my heart, and do that," Crighton says, "if I go with that gut feeling on things, rather than fit any particular box - 'cause that would be stupid."
Water & Dust has been in the making for a long time, with twists and turns in the formula, as new songs came to the fore and new musicians entered the picture.
The Riverina-born, Hunter Valley-based musician lives and breathes music. It's woven into his lifestyle. His songs are directly influenced by the way he lives. His heart beats to the rhythm of the land.
The new album has nine tracks, including the bonus track, Lost Without You, a banger of a song that has a classic rockabilly shiver about it. Half were recorded in sessions at Oceanic Studios in the autumn of 2021, run by Jim Moginie of Midnight Oil fame. The other half was recorded at the Prawn & Spanner, Christian Pyle's studio in Goonengerry, in the hinterlands outside Byron Bay, in the spring of 2020.
Pyle and Damien Charles share separate engineering credits on the album.
While there are a couple of slow burners, After All (It's a Good World) - Crighton's take on an heartfelt Henry Lawson poem on the effect of war - and Keep Facing The Sunshine, a quiet call for optimism in the face of misfortune, the album's tone is dominated by a set of awesome anthemic rock songs.
And This Is Magic, released as a video late in 2020, stands all by itself. It's fun, it's local, it has a message (writing credits to the William Crighton family. His girls, Olive and Abigail, also have singing credits on the album).
There are five songs that fight for the right to be called the best song on the album.
The title cut, Water & Dust, is epic, both lyrically and musically. Recorded at Oceanic, it includes Jeff Lang on guitar, Luke Davison on drums, James Haselwood on bass, William Barton on didgeridoo and Julieanne Crighton on vocals.
In true Crighton fashion, the song, which runs over six minutes, morphs into a psychedelic twister halfway through.
Message-wise, it thumps down Crighton's own true belief from the git-go: We are the children, Water and dust, We belong to the mother, She don't belong to us.
Crighton says it time and time again in his conversation with me: "We have a tendency to live as if we are separate from nature. But we are nature. We are expressions of nature. You can't escape that. We are the wild. We are that."
The musician's intense storytelling is reflected in his extremely loyal fan base. He's not a mainstream pop star - he may never be - but his message is well understood. His international success is further proof.
As if that was not a big enough song, the masterpiece on the album may well be Killara, an original ballad that runs over seven minutes on the album, telling a convict prisoner's account of the horrific abuse of an Aboriginal woman and her dream-like escape ride to freedom.
Crighton refuses to say he has a favourite song on the album, but he admits an emotional attachment to Killara.
"It takes so much out of me to play it. I love it," he says. "It's hard to have that as a favourite. That is one I feel strongly connected to. It was pages long, then Jules helped me get it down to a short seven-and-a-half minutes."
Like Water & Dust, the platform for Killara is set by the acoustics, particularly William Barton's didge.
Crighton draws on the history of great rock songs for the single, Stand. Hard driving, simple and fearsome. It bears the mark of Rob Hirst, Midnight Oil drummer and co-writer (with William and Julieanne Crighton) and guest star on the track. It has enough hooks to catch fans all the way through, like Don't stand with the one who is blinding you, You got to stand with the one who is kind to you.
Hirst only came into the studio to contribute to a couple songs, but he made a big impression. " He just lifts the vibe as soon as he walks in the door," Crighton says in a chat last year just after the Oceanic sessions. "The amount of energy he puts into everything."
There's more than one great drummer on this album, by the way. There's a songwriting credit to Reuben Alexander, there's Luke Davison on the Oceanic Studio recordings and Matt Sherrod on the Goonengerry recordings.
Perhaps the most anthemic song on album is Your Country, originally released in September 2020 with a video, it's a call to action to save the environment. It's tight and direct in tone and language. The urgency resembles a Midnight Oil song (in fact, it was on the warm-up play list at their shows after its release). Barton's didge bounces off Crighton's call to action, with Sherrod's driving beat underneath it all, and a touch of Jeff Lang's guitar in there, too.
Add Lost Without You to that top five list and you've got a live concert where you haven't been able to sit down yet.
No wonder: the album was recorded in the old school way.
"It was all recorded pretty much live," Crighton says. "The main takes were live, to get the spirit of the take, and then you just work on it and build on it from there."
It has such a unique sound imprint, mostly because of Barton's influential didgeridoo, but also the overall flavour - bush rock, early Aussie rock, and '70s psychedelica, with a healthy dollop of folk kindness (Crighton has always been a fan of John Williamson).
"I wanted to combine a bunch of different sounds, and make it something special like, the actual fabric of the sounds," Crighton says. "So I put more thought into it than I even have into the sonic sound."
Does Crighton think it's a great album? I ask him in the green room over a glass of wine before a gig he's playing at Warners Bay last week.
"I definitely like where it's at," he says. "It's different to anything I've ever done. In the sense that it's more dense in some parts.
"But it's also the songwriting, I pushed myself a little bit with that. The storytelling. It's a bit more angry in some areas.
"I don't know. I'm too close to it.
"It's an honest bit of expression and an honest bit of creativity but to sit back and say, 'this is excellent,' I don't know. You'll have to tell me that."
Like the spaces in time that form the essence of the album, the moment has moved on.
Crighton, who has an extensive European tour, delayed for two years, still scheduled to commence in April this year, is going to be busy.
He's on the line-up for the Riverboats Music Festival in two weeks, and opening for Midnight Oil in Newcastle and Wollongong, with his own show at the Grace Hotel in Adelaide - all of that in February.
He'll have time to reflect on the quality of Water & Dust later. Much later.
"Now, I won't listen to it for six months now it's done and out," he says. "When I listen again, I'll be able to tell you more objectively."