Xavier Ruud Dark Shades Of Blue

With a reputation largely based on a powerful live show, it seems that this Australian-born multi-instrumentalist only needed a solid recording in order to justify his growing international audience. Dark Shades Of Blue does just that, firmly capturing the live energy of Rudd’s distinctive blending of disparate musical styles. Although his reggae-inflected slide guitar playing often draws comparisons to Ben Harper, and his general neo-hippy attitude has made him a favourite on the jam band circuit, the album does possess unexpected heft, thanks in part to a dense mix by Joe Barresi, known for his work with Tool and Queens of the Stone Age. Still, Rudd primarily puts the focus on his songwriting, displaying a strong social conscience on "This World As We Know It,” as well as some genuine introspection on "Shiver.” Special mention should also be made of Rudd’s right-hand man, Kitchener, ON native Dave Tolley, whose drumming has the daunting task of complementing Rudd’s highly textured approach, but one that’s often as primal as life in the Australian Outback. (Salt X/Fontana North/Universal)