Storm Boy, the newest album from Australian musician Xavier Rudd is being released on May 26 2018 by the Nettwerk Music Group. Unlike his previous release, Nanna, which featured a full band, this album sees him returning to the more familiar territory of Rudd as a solo artist accompanied by only a couple of other musicians.
Of course Rudd as a solo artist doesn’t mean he’s sitting at a microphone singing and strumming a guitar. It means he’s playing the usual assortment of instruments associated with him; harmonica, kick drum, yidakis (didgeridoos), and a variety of guitars ranging from baritone slide to electric. However, just because he’s returned to his former style of performance, doesn’t mean he has stayed the same or the album doesn’t reflect changes in both his life and the way he perceives the world around him.
Rudd has always been most effective as a songwriter when he sings and write from the heart. Which doesn’t mean his lyrics are mushy and without thought. On the contrary, he writes about what moves him in the world surrounding him – from land rights and reconciliation with the indigenous population of Australia to the simple pleasures of sitting in the sun by a river watching it sparkle on the water.
To those of us living outside Australia the album’s title won’t mean much. But in the song of the same name, “Storm Boy”, their lies a clue in the line “Pelican drifting slowly/looking for a feed/Like Mr. Percival to Storm Boy”. Storm Boy is the name of an Australian children’s book that was made into a movie in the late 1970s about a lonely young boy befriending a pelican. Its about finding love in unexpected places and friendship in the world around you.
In many ways the choosing of Storm Boy as the title for the album is reflective of Rudd’s state of mind. The song of that name is about reflecting on the things which we have and how we need to recognize them for the gifts they are. There’s even a line in the song telling people to remember the “the diggers who gave their lives to the service and the government gain/ so that we could dance together on this beautiful day.” (for those who don’t know “diggers” is Australian slang for an infantry soldier from WWl)
The album clearly shows off Rudd’s diversity as both a musician and a songwriter. The opening track, “Walk Away”, a plea for people to remember what’s really important in life and to walk away from other stuff, is like his proclamation of independence. “Walk away from all that you know/ Walk away and hold your own/Walk away and hold your own.”
While all the tracks on this disc are heartfelt and infused with Rudd’s passion, two that stood out most for me were “Gather the Hands” and “Times Like These”. The former is a song about what needs to be done for reconciliation between Australia’s European settlers and her original inhabitants.
Once again he uses an image from a children’s tale, “A Stone In The Road” to help drive his message across. In the story it took many people to move a stone that was blocking a road – and the song’s message is it will take a lot of hard lifting by many hands to get the stone of history and hatred out of the way of finding a solution for co-existence. “Through the eye of a needle we try to move the stone/So heavy from its history of shame and blood and bone/…Gather the hands to move the stone/Gather the hands to move the stone.”
“Times Like These” is the album’s final track and in it Rudd lists all the things he hangs onto to help him through the troubled times we find ourselves experiencing. While we can fight all we want to for what we believe in, we still need things to hold onto personally to keep us centred and strong. “I believe we can breathe in the magic of our earth/ And I believe we can exhale anything we feel we didn’t deserve/And I believe there was a man called Jesus Christ/ In times like these/ who said treat each other equally in times like these”.
With Storm Boy Rudd has delivered an album of music which could possibly serve as an antidote to the amount of anger in the world. Not that he denies there isn’t justification for the anger, it’s just he knows the only way we’ll be able to solve anything is if we can all get past it. All in all this is an album of music which serves as a balm for the troubled soul of our world. Lets just hope the world is listening.