When he debuted in 2002 with the album To Let, Xavier Rudd began a journey that would see him become one of the most iconic voices in Australian music, literally and figuratively. With each new album, this journey has wound like a river making its way toward the ocean - twisting and turning, flowing and cascading as it relentlessly pushes forward.
Introducing himself as an artist of both imagination and conscience, To Let was definitive of Rudd's ability to marry uplifting music with thought-provoking themes and concepts. It was music that, one way or another, made you feel good. With an array of guitars, didgeridoos, stomp boxes and percussion, Xavier Rudd re-introduced a lot of Australians to the sounds and stories of the land's original owners, while introducing the rest of the world to an entirely new sound altogether.
Solace, Rudd's sophomore album of 2004, showcased the raw power of his songs by stripping them back to bare essentials. Recorded in Vancouver with friend and producer Todd Simko, Solace – far more than just a singer-songwriter album – captured the essence of Xavier Rudd's one-man-band dexterity. Rudd's spirituality permeated the songs on Solace with a masterfully emotional touch. Singles Let Me Be and Shelter captured a sentimental heart in wonderfully warm songs that resonated strongly with fans - the album debuting in the top 20 of the ARIA charts and having three of its songs voted into triple j's annual Hottest 100.
The next evolutionary step forward came a year later with the ARIA-nominated album, Food In The Belly. Once again recording in Vancouver, Rudd found a perfect middle-ground between the first two albums, but also introduced a more haunting and mournful sound to his repertoire. His ability to weave genres together had strengthened to the point where a once-undefined mixture of blues, reggae, indigenous and folk music was now simply his trademark.
The further into the world he travelled, the more Xavier Rudd's music became refined and seasoned with new influences. People were connecting strongly with what Xavier had to say, and what those words meant. Better People, the first single from the 2007 ARIA-nominated album White Moth, saw Xavier examine his position in this connectivity, singing 'and what I have could be a message / or just some words from my heart'... a recurring theme in Xavier's philosophies. Musically, however, it would be White Moth's edgier songs like Stargaze that would be the shape of things to come.
Released in 2008, and stunning fans with the heaviest musical departure of his career; Dark Shades Of Blue was unlike any previous Xavier Rudd album. Gritty, dark and incredibly dynamic, the album redefined Rudd as a lapsteel player and lyricist alike. While still deeply spiritual in his songwriting, Rudd presented a more introspective side on Dark Shades Of Blue that deeply connected with fans.
Returning to lighter shades for sixth album Koonyum Sun, by 2010 Xavier's music had, in a sense, come full-circle. Recorded as Xavier Rudd And Izintaba; Koonyum Sun featured a newfound collaboration with bassist Tio Moloantoa and percussionist Andile Nqubezelo, and saw Rudd return to his blues and roots foundations. Themes of love, respect and peace – a fixture throughout all of Rudd's work – were once again at the fore of his expression.
And so the journey continues....
Encompassing all of his musical and spiritual gifts; 2012's Spirit Bird is Xavier Rudd at his best.
Shaped by his history but continuing to break new ground, Xavier Rudd is at his most creative on Spirit Bird – once again painting breathtaking pictures with vivid, unmistakable tones. Hypnotic ceremonial rhythms ease effortlessly into tender folk songs. Gritty guitar blues sits perfectly alongside entrancing yidaki passages. Rudd's voice, and the voice of his ancestors, yet again bearing truth and knowledge.
At times Spirit Bird recalls the simplicity of Solace, and at others the electricity of Dark Shades Of Blue. There is the youthfulness of To Let, but the wisdom of Koonyum Sun. It is Xavier Rudd by every measure.
And whether it is a message, or just some words from the heart; Spirit Bird is a defining moment in the evolution of one of Australia's most important artists. The moment where the river meets the ocean.