Review Summary: The heartfelt songwriting and sheer musical talent shines through on yet another excellent Xavier Rudd album.White Moth
sounds like a best-of record. From the opening bars of Better People
, the album draws on all of the strongest elements of Xavier’s previous records and offers up 14 tracks that draw on - yet equally expand on - his previous efforts. The many influences that inspire Xavier in both life and music come through on White Moth
, with subject matter ranging from environmental and political concerns to personal relationships and individual freedom and choice. But it is not the lyrics that lead the line here, it’s the discernible passion with which the music has been made. It’s been the trademark of Xavier since he first started performing at the beginning of the century, and - excluding his live performances - never has it been more prevalent than on White Moth
While relative contemporaries like John Butler
have been accused of commercialising their sound and somewhat leaving their ‘roots’, fans can level no such allegation at Xavier. White Moth
is largely more of the same from Xavier, yet somehow the sound remains fresh and the songs are as engaging as ever. The uplifting, “happy” songs - in the vein of probably his most famous song, Let Me Be
- are here; his more rockin’, serious side shines through - as Footprint
(but is infinitely heavier); and the delicate, impassioned vocals and instrumentals that have become synonymous with Xavier accentuate the brilliant moments of the album. See what I mean about it being a best-of album, just without any songs you’ve heard before? But it fits this description in the best possible way. White Moth
draws on all of his best moments from the past five years and throws them together in this melting pot of Blues & Roots magic.
opens the album in appropriate style, with lyrics that embody much of who Xavier Rudd is: “People saving whales, And giving your thanks to our seas, My respect to the ones in the forest, Standing up for our old trees
”, immediately followed by the brilliant chorus:
“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 there’s Better People,
With more good to do.
It’s rather reminiscent of Let Me Be
, which can only ever be a good thing. The cruisy drumming and gentle guitar helps add to the positive feeling, which establishes the sentiment which symbolises Xavier so well early in the piece. The Bob Marley
continues the positive vibe as Xavier begins to show why he is essentially the one-man band
. On Twist
, he plays his 11-string slide guitar, Harmonica, gives the rolling beat with his stomp box, and of course, sings. But it’s only a taste of the musicianship to come. On the fragile yet powerful Choices
, he plays slide and acoustic guitar (obviously not at the same time), Harmonica and Bass, as well as singing one of the best vocal lines on one of the best songs on the album. But the bar is raised - along with the tempo - on Footprints
, which is sure to be epic at live shows. At just over seven minutes, the frantic break grabs the album by the scruff of the neck as the electric 12-string gets a serious once-over. Addressing the lack of political action towards climate change and the environment, the music certainly speaks louder than the few words in this certain album highlight.
The tangible feeling of a connection to the land and the water that Xavier exudes manifests itself throughout White Moth
perhaps more than on any previous Xavier record. From the unpretentious support for Indigenous Australians and land rights issues to the genuine ‘earthy’ (for lack of a better word) sound, Xavier has successfully transferred the natural feeling of his live performances to a studio recording better than ever before. Watching the DVD that accompanied the album and seeing Xavier actually writing some of the lyrics for the album, there is no question the White Moth
is as accurate a portrayal of Xavier Rudd’s music as is possible. The entire album was recorded ‘live’, and it shows in the intimate and delicate vocals and passionate musicianship. This is probably best seen in the short, uplifting title-track, White Moth
, where Xavier talks about his family and his personal life. The simple and alluring chord progression interacts effortlessly with Xavier’s tender vocals, as he sings some of the most uncomplicated yet effective lyrics he’s ever written. It stands in stark contrast to the full-blooded seven minutes which follow.
Continuing the theme of drawing upon his best work from previous albums, Stargaze
has a definite Fortune Teller
feel to it. This probably comes largely from the use of the slide and the Yirdaki (the Indigenous name for the didgeridoo) but it’s nonetheless as rockin’ and almost as appealing as the 2005 song. Followed by Choices
, it adds to the incredibly strong opening section of the album. The tempo is slowed markedly on the dawdling, almost reggae Come Let Go
. The organ is used effectively to add to the ambient feeling and Xavier’s vocals are again attractive. Starting all but four lines with the word “come” is also interesting. Anni Kookoo
provides a compelling change in lyrical direction, as Xavier talks about modern society in this most contemplative of songs. The instrumental Message Stick
takes too long to get going, but once it does, it is didgeridoo and percussion brilliance from Xavier. As well as those two he uses the stomp box in this one, obviously all at the same time. The didg work is broodingly captivating.
While the second-half of the album is undeniably outdone by its predecessor, the pensive Whirlpool
saves the album from falling away, in one of only three songs where Xavier is instrumentally unaccompanied. The mellow acoustic guitar supports both the vocals and harmonica superbly in a typically heartfelt ballad. The love-inspired sentiment continues through to the closer, with Come Back
somewhere between melancholic and buoyant. The vocals in the chorus are as fragile as ever, and the last line is sublime (“…if you come back, there will be good times
”). These two tracks are the unashamed highlights of the second-half of the album.
While there are moments that prevent the album from becoming a genuine classic (such as the back-half, at times), there is enough quality here to satisfy just about any needs. Unless you like death metal - this is probably the direct musical opposite to death metal. White Moth
probably offers up more great songs than any other Xavier Rudd album, which after 2005’s Food In The Belly
is no mean feat. While there is a lack of any immediately obvious classic tracks to rival "Let Me Be"
or "Fortune Teller"
, White Moth
is probably Xavier’s most well-rounded and complete record to date. The experience of a Xavier Rudd live show is something most people don’t forget easily. White Moth
has gone closer than any of its forerunners in capturing that intimacy, energy and passion. Perhaps not the album of the year, but a certain contender.