If Xavier Rudd is jamband nation's new favorite troubadour, perhaps that's because he almost qualifies as a band himself. The singer-songwriter, who has dual Australian-Canadian citizenship, plays guitar or banjo while shaking his ankle bells and beating his bare feet on a stomp box; he also interjects harmonica, various traditional drums and the didgeridoo, an eerie aboriginal wind instrument. While engineer Todd Simko adds a few instrumental touches, Rudd is responsible for nearly every sound on "Solace," his second album.
The disc's 14 songs include some delicate ballads, as well as a slinky cover of Bob Marley's "No Woman No Cry." Yet whether Rudd is playing acoustic or electric guitar, most of his numbers are upbeat and gently funky. There's a bass player's sensibility in the striding guitar lines that pace such numbers as "Shelter" and "G.B.A." Add Rudd's soulful tenor and his pro-environment, anti-authoritarian sentiments and songs such as "Let Me Be" suggest a contemporary Richie Havens, calling for freedom. Where Haven strummed frantically, however, Rudd finger-picks jazzily. "Solace" calls for a revolution that's laid-back, multicultural and groove-conscious.
-- Mark Jenkins
Appearing Tuesday at the State Theatre with State Radio.