Xavier Rudd 

Solace

Xavier Rudd is a singer-songwriter whose strength is neither singing nor songwriting -- he specifically excels as a one-man band, ankle bells included. Surrounded by a stage setup comprising didgeridoos, harmonicas, aboriginal percussion, guitars, and a slide banjo, Rudd can involve his entire body in a song's creation, and across Solace, his shaky voice and ordinary tunes are saved by those multi-instrumental magical moments, though you have to wade through a great many clichéd, boring moments to get there. Album closer "Green Spandex" should recall what Rudd does best, but instead, it's another stripped-down acoustic guitar ballad, albeit one almost as passionate and rousing as his multi-instrumental orgies. That's not enough: It needs to have shakers, slit drum, slide banjo, and for God's sake, didgeridoo. Solace doesn't succeed like it could, but when it does, Rudd makes Dave Matthews, Jack Johnson, and Ben Harper look like amateurs.

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