It’s thought that there’s not much love for a man wielding a didgeridoo, let alone three, but Australian singer-songwriter Xavier Rudd has built an entire career on confounding expectations.
Over the last decade, Rudd has built a loyal, if laid-back, following, capitalizing on the surf ‘n’ sand folk-rock phenomenon led by acts like Jack Johnson, Ben Harper, and the Beautiful Girls. The 32-year-old environmentalist has also become a popular fixture on the festival circuit, famed for his live shows where he often acts as a one-man band surrounded by a mind-boggling arrangement of instruments.
Rudd shows just how eager he is to keep revolutionizing his sound on his most recent album, Koonyum Sun. The collection is the first effort to feature his new band, Izintaba, which is essentially a South African rhythm section comprised of Tio Moloantoa and Andile Nqubezelo (formerly of the late Lucky Dube’s band). Charleston actually enjoyed a preview of this collaboration last summer, and the response to the group’s funk-filled jams was overwhelmingly positive.
After playing together for more than a year, the trio is tighter than ever, proudly showing off their well-reviewed Sun. The album’s buoyed by unrelenting drum beats, Rudd’s soaring, scratchy vocals, and some epic world rhythms. “Set Me Free” calls to mind early Peter Gabriel, while “Fresh Green Freedom” embodies the loose, carefree vibe of a sunny day, masking the song’s earnest environmental message. “Love Comes and Goes” earns its Paul Simon comparisons and offers a gentle and sweet take on fleeting romance.
Possibly the best song to get the crowd revved for a night of nonstop hands-and-hips waving is the electric “Badimo,” a crazy-cool amalgamation of haunting sounds and muttered musings. It’s a truly original, mind-melting tune that begs to be recreated live in a sea of sweating, happy music aficionados who love to be surprised.