For his third solo album, Don Walker has created a set of story-songs to sit alongside his finest work as solo artist, with trio Tex, Don & Charlie and of course with that fine body of work as chief songwriter for Cold Chisel. You listen to the searing Angry Women or panoramic The Long Way Home and you’re engaging with mini-movies, songs that could soundtrack filmed sequences, sure, but songs that play out – live out – as if their own movie experience. It’s as relevant to think of these songs alongside the work of an Australian writer like Tim Winton as it is to simply think of other musical names to nudge up against this.
That said, Young Girls, an early album highlight, is reminiscent of the underrated material on that final Dire Straits album, weepy steel guitars and soft-brushed drums creating the mood. Here Walker, as Knopfler has done, creates his own distinct version of a type of Americana music – as always with Walker’s music (and musings) he’s able to evoke the land where he lives, the heat and isolation of Australia’s geography, the battling within the psyche. We’re introduced to characters, their actions are described in just a few frames, they live on the stage – within the record – for just a few moments, but we feel we have a huge back-story, it’s there, implied, there’s an emotional weight behind the worlds.
The opening title track rides on a fantastic subversion of a Duane Eddy/Peter Gunn guitar riff, Lucky is a real tears-in-beers song before closing and Everybody – rerecorded from the most recent (reunion) Cold Chisel album – works better under Walker’s voice; lyrics falling down from the page in much the way as Leonard Cohen’s Everybody Knows (an obvious influence).
The closing Pool (Major) feels like something from that wonderful Paul Buchanan record – a reminder that, for all the great playing on this record (and it really is quite stunning, the band tears through it), there’s something special when Walker’s words and simple, stately piano are left to tell the story.