GHOSTING: Recorded by Jeff Lang & Dave Walker (in Fawkner 2015/Geelong 2019)
Mixed by Jeff Lang, Mastered by Phil Georges.
Released on Green South Records.
Spirit World is the spellbinding lead single from Van Walker’s first solo album in a decade, reminding us once again why he's rightly regarded as one of the finest songwriters in the land.
From the formidable forthcoming album Ghosting, the song is a haunted, mysterious composition, as straight-up vulnerable as it is mercurial, but someone is missing someone, and dabbling in the dark arts as a means to bring them back, dead or alive!
The song, like much of the album, is stark and brutally honest, with just bass and fingerstyle acoustic guitar, and the added spark of Australia's most revered roots musicians and no stranger to disturbed folk, guitar wizard Jeff Lang weaving his magic on dobro between the enchanted lyric of reverie and sorcery.
And not long after we started the album I had what might be called a breakdown, an episode of extreme exhaustion with an immediate need for deep rest and recuperation.
I'd run myself into the ground with work and self-recrimination, and although I thought I'd been through the worst of it, I came to realise I hadn't even got near the worst part.
There's a quote by DH Lawrence: "...one of the great laws of the human soul: that when the emotional soul receives a wounding shock, which does not kill the body, the soul seems to recover as the body recovers. But this is only appearance. It is really only the mechanism of the re-assumed habit. Slowly, slowly the wound to the soul begins to make itself felt, like a bruise, which only slowly deepens its terrible ache, till it fills all the psyche. And when we think we have recovered and forgotten, it is then that the terrible after-effects have to be encountered at their worst."
So I was more profoundly wounded than I realised and I'd been self medicating more than usual (and not sleeping) and one night on the road it just all shut down and I couldn't go on. I officially burnt out, and there wasn't a light there again for awhile. I mean, the actual breakdown probably only lasted a couple of weeks but the recovery took years and it wasn't until 2019 that I finally could finish the album with Dave Walker.
Born & raised on the windswept prairies of north-west coast Tasmania, Van first heard the music of Bob Dylan around adolescence & began picking guitar & writing songs. Some hundreds of songs later and a hell-bent pick, he moved to Melbourne to form bands such as The Swedish Magazines, Goatpiss Gasoline and The Livingstone Daisies, and sing his unique hillbilly stuff on the side.
The first collection of these beguilingly simple songs came out in 2008 entitled The Celestial Railroad, & in 2009 three separate sessions were released, The Last Record Store (Jan) Greetings from Penguin Tasmania (Aug) & Love Fate (Oct). Drawing on the grand storytelling tradition of artists such as Ray Davies, Townes Van Zandt, Leon Payne & John Prine and the acoustic finger-styles of John Fahey & Mississippi John Hurt, Van created a sound both old & new, with a laconic familiarity that speaks to the heart with an intimacy more effortless than contrived.
He took to the road with a cache of seemingly myriad original compositions & began finding his audience in the most unlikely places, even writing songs while standing on stages, composing ditties to people he’d only just met, & delivering albums with these dedications on them. Songs for local independent record stores (The Last Record Store), pubs nestled deep within the southern wilderness (Blackout), books found & read on lonely train rides (Timbuktu) & even odes dedicated to itinerant musicians doing the very same (Living Like a Gypsy).
Along with these came songs of lovelorn spies (The Singing Detective) downtrodden bus-drivers (Old Joe) transient serial murders (Travelin Man) & drunken rabbits (Wildgrass) to name a few.
By August of 2010 the latest full-length album Bush League Bard was released to more rave reviews. A collection of both new, unheard songs & unrecorded live favourites, teaming up with the same musicians whom graced his debut, BLB was be his last for a while as he awaited the release of a retrospective from The Fuse Music Group entitled UNDERNEATH THE RADAR 2008 ~ 2010, a compilation of songs from his first 5 albums, in an attempt to harness this mercurial torrent of productivity into a digestible overview of an artist unblocked, released October 28th 2011 to more positive press.
Since then Van has been busy touring Europe in 2013, 2014, & 2018, writing and releasing two albums with the powerpop outfit The Livingstone Daisies (2013, PBS Album of the Year) (2014 4.5 Stars AGE EG) with Liz Stringer, his brother Callan, and Michael Barclay (Paul Kelly/Mick Thomas), forming and recording the rocknroll record Heartbrokers Vol.10 featuring Jeff Lang, Ezra Lee, Ash Davies(Off the Hip/Rubber); forming the three piece blues outfit Goatpiss Gasoline; while also writing and performing as a member of the critically acclaimed Vandemonian Lags stage production.
“Van Walker writes songs with the ease the rest of us breath.”
— JB HiFi Magazine.