Is This Goodbye?
Singer-songwriter Craig Sinclair may now be based in Sydney, but his emergence as an artist and as a person is deeply rooted in Western Australia. After initially kicking around Perth and Fremantle performing local shows as a teenager, Sinclair’s musical journey also included a six-year stint living in Albany and performing with local group The Pepperjacks. Now he has returned to the west coast in support of his third full-length album Is This Goodbye?, an expressive record that reaches deep into Sinclair’s rich pool of talent as a lyricist and multi-instrumentalist.
The album opens with the title track Is This Goodbye?, a delicate tune that sets the tone for the album both musically and thematically. Sinclair’s lush acoustic fingerpicking is the driving force, channelling the methods of more ’emotive’ folk acts like Nick Drake and Elliot Smith. Sinclair’s voice is well paired with exquisitely played violin as he unfurls both meditation and self-doubt with tenderness and clarity, or as he muses – listening to the “whisper from within.”
The lyrics throughout the album are densely packed with thoughtful self-reckoning and imagery. On Old Friend of Mine, he states “I’ve been keeping bad company, these thoughts in my head.” New instruments and sonic textures are introduced as the album blossoms, including harmonica and slide guitar with percussion used sparingly throughout.
Varischetti is another track that stays with the listener. It tells the story of an Italian man who travelled to Western Australia for the promises of fortune during the gold rush, but was trapped in a flooded Coolgardie mine in 1907. Sinclair illustrates the story of the mission to rescue “the widower from Italy with two children back home” in stark detail. The rare blending of didgeridoo, flute and violin in the track also ties in with its broader theme of multiculturalism and cultural identity following an unprecedented phase of immigration. “Ten days and nights the nation prayed for this man buried alive/ Weakened from the dark and damp, determined to survive.”
Sinclair’s lyrics and music generally roll off the tongue and into your ears seamlessly, though the odd familiar phrase will wash over you without really breaking the skin. At times he really does make the listener take notice though, especially on The Blues is With Me, with hard-hitting lines like “a jealous man will point a rifle at a dove.”
Musically, Is This Goodbye? is most memorable for its use of supporting instruments like violin, flute and slide guitar which bring a new dynamic to each song. This continues to pique the listener’s interest over the 10 tracks without overshadowing the key melodies and lyrics that are like all folk albums – at its centre. Sinclair’s third full length is a testament to an artist who has absorbed a wealth of musical influences and life experiences and returns serve to a world that is inherently complex and challenging but ultimately beautiful.