White Moth – Xavier Rudd
Xavier Rudds White Moth, while often being a pleasant, peaceful journey of folk, reggae, and world music, underscores the fragility and depth of the chasm humans have created between the world in which we live and the world we have created for ourselves a mighty relevant topic, indeed. Musicians have approached this topic of discontinuity between ourselves and the world in a multitude of fashions and it is widely regarded as protest music, or underground, or perhaps new age. Rudd sits comfortably in all these styles, with pop and rock thrown in for pleasure and because he does them rather well. Incorporating catchy pop melodies with his earthiness and gentle swagger is something Rudd does exceedingly well. As White Moth unfolds, it maintains a spirited message of redemption and action. But it never disarms us.
From Better People through to Come Back, White Moth holds open a slowly revolving door for Rudds talents to make an impression on us: his gentle yet firm Paul Simon-like voice (only more earnest and soaring), his Ben Harper-like Weisenborn guitar attacks, folk-y guitar lines, and booming didgeridoo voicings. Better People, an intimately-voiced ode to do gooders the world over represents his lyrical message best:
Them giving food to the hungry,
Hope to the needy,
Giving life to a baby,
Giving care for free,
‘Cause there is freedom around us,
We have everything we need,
And I will care for you,
‘Cause you cared for me.
And we all have opinions,
Some of them get through,
But theres better people,
With more good to do
Sentiments aside, the song is nearly pure pop, or at least as close as he gets. From here on out, things get either mellower or weirder. Twist, with its slide guitar reggae stomp and grittier vocal phrasings exudes similar sentiments, but with a throbbing heartbeat rhythm and ganja-friendly atmosphere. Stargaze is a perfect Ben Harper/John Butler (another Aussie) mash-up that gets gritty and weird in the best of ways.
With an alternating high-hat/ride taps from the drummer, this song sways back and forth with energy and force that bellies nearly any song on the album, save Footprints, a seven-plus minute rocker that carries its weight well throughout the journey. In a maelstrom of sound, the song speeds up and comes crashing down at full speed, with huge toms, vocal solos, and creepy didgeridoos pumping forward. Soon, water trickles over the song, washing away everything but Aboriginal singers and drums echoing the past.
Being rather front-loaded, the album screams for some song editing. The only real keeper from the latter half of this 14-song set is Annie Kookoo, a lovely finger-picked melody that is laden with sadness and unfortunate truths, yet remains brightly realized. A song about aboriginal trials and losses is never a joyful ride, but the message is a clarion call, reflecting a mirror on the lives of native peoples everywhere.
White Moth is a blues and roots folk hour broadcasting its message from down under, swelling with heart and spirit, attempting to pull us down there with him. This is a record of land, water, and spirit. Xaviers lucid talent at portraying the often contradicting human presence within these elements is worthy of praise, although his music can be repetitive and a touch too languid to truly capture the essence of his messages. In the end, that critique matters little. Xavier is on his way towards a bright future, chasms be damned.