Xavier Rudd — Spirit Bird
review by Chris Penfold
By the time an artist reaches their seventh studio album they face the very real danger of recycling their old work and diluting any message their music carries. Thankfully, this is not the case with Xavier Rudd. In his new album Spirit Bird, he marries musical experimentation with an affirmation of the social, environmental and spiritual themes that have underpinned all of his previous releases.
Opening track Lioness Eye is a largely instrumental leap in to repetitive beats, long drones and hypnotic sounds of the Australian outback, before the delicate harmonica of Comfortable In My Skin, brings in a more familiar Xavier Rudd sound. As the album progresses it continues to shift between more experimental pieces and Rudd’s trademark folk, blues and reggae-influenced sound.
Relentless touring has cemented Rudd in the hearts and minds of fans worldwide and his live show is something to behold – an accomplished multi-instrumentalist, he is often barely visible for the guitars, yidakis (digeridoos), percussion and rigging that surround him.
But it’s easy to see why in particular, Xavier Rudd is a household name in his native Australia. His music has such a solid identity that there is no denying its country of origin. On his new album his connection to the plight of the aboriginal people is ever apparent in the ceremonial rhythms, yidaki drones, and socially and spiritually conscious lyrics.
In the title track Spirit Bird he sings: “Culture fades… leaving us stunned, hollow with shame… we have seen this all before… Many tribes of a modern kind, doing brand new work, same spirit by their side, joining hearts and hands in ancestral twine.”
Xavier Rudd has the rare ability to turn a simple melody into an attention-grabbing hook by injecting just the right amount of emotion in to his voice. This is made all the more refreshing by the fact that he actually has something interesting and worthy to say. And in Spirit Bird, through his songs of love, peace and respect, his message is more urgent than ever.
Spirit Bird is out now on SideOneDummy Records. Xavier Rudd performs at Koko, London on Wed 8 August 2012.