Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Reviews:: Xavier Rudd White Moth

If I had to make a broad generalizing statement about white people, it would be that they love those open jam musicians that dabble in reggae, folk and world music and allows for some awkward shaking ... well that and Kanye. So, my initial reaction to the new Xavier Rudd record was that it would be a crowd pleaser. I mean, he's an Australian ex-pat, one man band and he rocks out on the didgeridoo. That pretty well screams festival headliner.

But to be honest, I found myself enjoying White Moth much more than I thought I would. Without trying to pigeon hole Xavier - especially since his style incorporates some crazy Aboriginal jams that not many other people are dropping into a set these days - he's sound and energy are going to be familiar for fans of Ben Harper, Paul Simon and Bob Marley. That may be an easy jump off point, but it shows the quality of the songs Xavier is writing.

White Moth opens with Better People and right away you see that Xavier embodies a world where love powers over hate and music can change the world. Very few musicians really put their heart and soul into a song, but on Better People, Xavier reminds me off Ben Harper (especially with the slide guitar and hammond). I think he really think his songs can make the world a better place and that energy comes through in the folky track. He changes pace with Twist, and jumps into the beach friendly reggae vibe that bleeds into the blues heavy Stargaze. This is the type of song that turns into a 11-minute Bonnaroo jam fest, forming a pot-induced, dread shaking cloud.

It's easy to poke fun at hippies, especially when so many hippie friendly music lovers tour around in their parents SUVs, but you get the distinct impression that Xavier lives the life he sings about. When he sings about flowers and sunshine, I don't think he's just trying to find inspiration and the Paul Simon-esque Choices proves he has enough charisma and emotion to grab your attention when a sway is more prevalent than dancing. He stays true to the sounds I've talked about for the record, which at 14 songs might be a stretch too long, but he certainly fills the album with enough impressive tracks to keep you interested. He finds rhythm so easy, that his slower songs flow like a gentle spring breeze (White Moth) and his more up tempo songs make you want to move. More importantly, he actually has something to say. Land Rights is another slower jam that he talks about the struggle of the Aboriginal people who lost their land (and Xavier actually includes the story along with the lyrics) and Anni Kookoo talks about oppression and his gentle falsetto reminds me of Graceland-era Pual Simon.

Probably the most interesting tracks on the record is the dirty, foot stomping Footprint and the drone stick laced Message Stick. Clocking in at over 7-minutes, Footprint is a hectic, political statement that fades to black with a closing prayer from a Cree-Nation Eagle Clan member. Xavier lets the song build and build, adding tribal drums and distortion to the acoustic strums. Message Stick is a quick moving groove that showcases a school kid choir and some heavy Yirdaki work. These earthy songs really break up the record and added that refreshing sound that so many rootsy artists lack in this day in age.

Overall, I'd say this record impressed me much more than I thought it would, so fans of the Ben Harper, Jack Johnson and the surfer vibe would do well to familiarize themselves with Xavier's work. Unlike most studio efforts, Xavier manages to bring enough energy to his studio work to make you feel like you are seeing him life, but also throws in material you can enjoy on a casual listen.

Xavier is heading across Canada, and stopping at Salmon Arms Roots and Blues Festival here in BC on Aug 17-19 (with Michael Franti and the Pointer Sisters)
MP3:: Better People

web site :: more MP3s

Posted at 12:10 PM by ack :: 0 comments

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