Award Winning Author Trent Dalton on Don Walkers New Album 'Lightning in a Clear Blue Sky'

5 May 2023 | 10:00 am | Trent Dalton

To celebrate the release of Don Walker's hotly anticipated album 'Lightning in a Clear Blue Sky', internationally acclaimed author Trent Dalton (Boy Swallows Universe, Love Stories) has penned some inspiring words on the release, and the overall impact that Don Walker has had on his life.

Photo Credit: Wendy McDougall

Photo Credit: Wendy McDougall

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No time to be coy. We’re all gonna die. So hurry up and tell us how you really feel.

No bullshit, the man’s music lives in me like myth. It resides in the same place in my brain where Buddy Holly’s last flight lives, or John’s big bite of Yoko’s apple, or Robert Johnson’s great Delta devil deal. His songs are stored on the same high and dustless shelf of my soul where I keep Heartbreak Hotel and Smells Like Teen Spirit, and A Whiter Shade of Pale.

I sometimes whisper tales about him in quiet booths in quiet Brisbane bars. I tell my tales of Wally Lewis and Ingrid Bergman, and then I tell some tales I heard about how Don Walker writes his songs. God knows if they’re tall or true.

“They say he’s a genius, you know. Noggin the size of Grafton. He coulda been a brilliant physicist, but lucky for us, he chose rock ‘n’ roll. They say he sees a song fully formed in his head, can see all those sounds mapped out in his weird third eye, well before a single note is written on a sheet. That’s some kinda spooky songwriter physics. Sonic voodoo. Real good juju.”

I know for a fact he’s a good listener, as all the best songwriters are. And I don’t just mean his ear for music. I mean his ear for stories. I mean the way he shut the hell up for 30 years and listened to all those people in the bars and the buses and the cabs and the truck stops and the backstage green rooms and the rehab halls and the courthouses and the falling down fibro kitchens of 3am and the fucked-up-chucked-up Kings Cross streets of dawn. And when he finally opened his mouth to speak, he said, “Flame Trees”. And when he finally opened his mouth to scream, he said, “Khe Sanh”.

Observation must be part of it. Otherwise known as giving a shit. Deciding to be enthralled by the costs of war and junk; choosing to be concerned about the taste of breakfast after a bender or the music in a Holden Monaro, or the life-changing curve of a buxom woman’s breast.

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I played his songs on the night my dad died of lung disease. My guaranteed-or-your-money-back never-fail cure for grieving the ones you love the most: get pissed on a 30-pack of tins and reach for the life works of Don Walker.

That’s half a century of songs as connected and intrinsic to the Australian experience as the rubber thong tan lines on our feet and the Medicare cards in our wallets and the Victa mowers in our sheds and the saltwater in our veins and the cheap wine in our blood.

That’s all that solo stuff: that honest masterpiece called We’re All Gunna Die; The Suave Fucks years; the Hully Gully years. That’s all the book stuff like Shots, quite possibly the finest piece of Australian autobiographical music writing penned so far this century. That’s all the Tex, Don and Charlie stuff.

That’s all the Catfish stuff. And, of course, that’s all the greatest Australian rock-n-roll-band-of-all-time-stuff. Rosaline. Breakfast at Sweethearts. Standing on the Outside. Choirgirl. Saturday Night. Who needs that sentimental bullshit?

Me. We. He. She. They. Them. Us. Always. And now all this new stuff. And now all this new lightning.

Recorded in Victoria over two days in early 2022, Lightning In a Clear Blue Sky finds Don Walker ably and thrillingly joined by long-time bandmates and creative collaborators Garrett Costigan on pedal steel; Michael Vidale on bass; Hamish Stuart on drums and the late, great guitarist Roydon Payne, to whom Walker has dedicated the album. A solo effort as deep as the ocean and as dark as the night, with big bright flashes of musical lightning. Sonic voodoo. Real good juju. It’s wondrous and tragic. It’s melancholic. It’s reflective. It’s dirty and bluesy and blue. Honest as a bee sting. Here is the sound of the perfect kiss that killed you. Here is the sound of running and landing and crashing and dying of thirst and being born again through love and lightning.

Here is the sound of a songwriter’s soul. An old-ish one. A used and worn and raggedy one. But a beautiful one. ‘I’ve got the song we’ll need to live,’ he sings on the very first line of the very first song. Turns out he’s got a whole album of them. Every one of them nourishing and sustaining; restorative and resurrective. He’s been listening again. And now, for the first time in years – like a fork of white lightning charged to split through your clear blue sky – the incomparable Don Walker is about to speak.

Stream or download the new album here