On the surface, Xavier Rudd's life seems so groovy: He sounds so carefree and inviting on "Better People," the opening track to his fourth album, "White Moth," as he coos, "I will care for you because you care for me." Beneath his lilting voice, though, the song shows a deeper passion, as he pays tribute to environmental activists and those striving to better the world.
That blend of lightheartedness and a granola spirit permeates "White Moth"; his song "Land Rights" reflects on the struggles of the Aboriginal residents in the Arnhem Land region of northern Australia to preserve their land from the 1950s to the 1970s. Rather than focusing on the people's frustrations, though, Rudd highlights the unity of their effort. Backing vocals from Aboriginal schoolchildren add a calming serenity that celebrates the situation's positive outcome. Rudd comes closest to outright frustration on "Footprint," as he references the damages done to Earth. The song's instrumental ending, featuring Rudd's yidaki (didgeridoo), is both fervent and hypnotic, and the track closes with a chilling Aboriginal prayer that channels calmness out of Rudd's haunting wail.
Canadian songstress Serena Ryder shares much in common with Toby Lightman: Both women have booming voices that sound wise beyond their years, and Ryder's latest EP, "Told You in a Whisper Song," is an acoustic affair that is reminiscent of Lightman's solo performances. While "Brand New Love" seeps with the youthful innocence that love can cure all ills, the direct, measured delivery of "Hiding Place" belies her age and hints that she will deliver even more devastating songs as she matures.
-- Catherine P. Lewis