Xavier Rudd’s sixth album, Food in the Belly, is his first for Epitaph’s ever-growing Anti label. Rudd imbues his songs with an array of sounds and textures like traditional and classical Indian slide guitar, organ, and didgeridoo drones (Rudd was born in Australia and raised in Canada). While it’s easy to overlook Rudd’s words since his voice is so agreeably soothing, it isn’t difficult to give in to the thumping sweetness of tracks like “Energy Song” and the electric “Fortune Teller.” The album should appeal to fans of Jack Johnson’s brand of surf-rock (“The ocean connects me to everything I know,” Rudd sings on the opening track “The Letter”), but there’s something a bit deeper stirring beneath the tiny waves of the multi-instrumentalist’s deft acoustic turns and barefoot optimism. Food is an album about gratitude, for sure, typified by the idealism of the title track (“People sleeping on the concrete still smile behind their signs”) and the hippy-dippy, seemingly rose-colored sentiments of “Messages,” in which he implores us to keep his beaches clean and addresses cynics who “just don’t understand” his titular messages, but there’s an irrefutable darkness to the record, which was written and recorded in isolation and, no doubt, in search of some solace from the violence of the surrounding world. In that vein, Rudd’s not above a little political sermonizing: “Shame these games that they play with you and me,” he sings on “Pockets Of Peace,” attempting to create such a pocket with the warm, analog world of his music.
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