Xavier Rudd: Solace

Xavier Rudd

I really didn’t know what to think when I got this album, having never truly heard much of Rudd, but reading enough about him to be inquisitive enough to check him out. The album art is also quite appealing, which seems like it was captured while riding on a train across America’s farmland. It’s that feeling of isolation that makes the title of this album appropriate, as most of these songs have that sense of travel or journey to them, particularly the blues-tinged groove of the Mississippi Delta mixed with a folksy, singer-songwriter style on “Shelter”, which conjures up an image of Paul Simon playing his acoustic guitar like Robert Johnson or Muddy Waters. It’s a sweet, but still quite catchy, toe-tapping arrangement. It’s also about seizing the moment, caveat emptor, oops, I meant carpe diem. “Do what you will while you’re able / Find what it is that you seek”, he sings. This blues thread continues on the stream-of-conscious saturated “3 Degrees” which is more of an interlude than anything else.

Fans of early troubadours such as Dylan and Ramblin’ Jack would do well on the quirky but terribly melodic “Let Me Be”, which resembles a series of folk-singers whose plane landed in Jamaica, as warm, island touches are sprinkled throughout while Rudd blows his harmonica when not laying down lyrics. Yet, at the same time, Rudd has that “glass is half full” positive attitude which places him along the likes of Jack Johnson or Dave Matthews, and to a lesser extent Bob Marley. When you throw in a didgeridoo, it makes for a peculiar but enticing affair. The title track (actually “Solace Amongst the Sin” within the liner notes) eerily sounds like John Mayer as Rudd’s sweet pipes allows him to get by with simple but effective wordplay and a rudimentary guitar picking. But you can’t fake soul, you can’t get it from ProTools, and it is soul that Rudd delivers in abundance on this particular selection. And over the course of five minutes, you get the impression Rudd is in this crazy, at times cut-throat business for the long haul.

Rudd tries to branch out during a folksy-roots-pop, up-tempo, socially-conscious “G.B.A.” that resembles something Matthews and crew could churn out as a concert audible. Nonetheless, Rudd makes the most of the song, despite not really excelling as much as he does with the slower, tender material. It also appears as if the track has taken all he has out of him, judging by the panting and gasping for air at the song’s conclusion. What is without question the centerpiece and highlight of the record is the pretty and poignant “Chances”, which reflects back when decisions were made with either the ensuing happy or tragic result. “Journey Song” is a lighter, laidback track which resembles something Simon might have contemplated for Graceland II. Relying on the percussion to jettison the song off in the right direction, Rudd is spot-on with this effort. He misses the mark somewhat with the hard-driving blues groove he builds upon during “A 4th World”, which could use more of a drumbeat. Instead the percussion is in the distance of this galloping track, coloring it into a world music corner.

Marley’s influence encompasses a large portion of the record, so it seems appropriate that Rudd performs a tender, fragile cover of “No Woman, No Cry” that Rudd does no disservice to. He follows this with “Partnership”, which is at first spoken prior to blossoming into a dreamy, uplifting, and almost spiritual gem of a tune. While some other performances ensue and are quite pleasing, this is the song that seems destined to be one of the tunes heard at weddings for quirky but cool couples. Rudd has a cult following already, and that cult might grow a bit on account of this warm, well-crafted collection of songs.

RATING 7 / 10