ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, FEB. 6, 2003
By Steve Newton
I remember seeing a one-man band as a kid once, and if memory serves, it was some middle-aged joker in a funny hat, blowing on a horn, fingering a ukulele, manipulating cymbals and a bass drum with his feet.
The music scene has improved a lot since then.
Nowadays you’ve got one-man bands like Australia’s Xavier Rudd, the locally managed 24-year-old who’s been winning fans with his soulful brand of rootsy blues-folk, which he performs with the simultaneous use of an acoustic lap-steel guitar, multiple didjeridus, and a “stomp box” (foot drum). “I do have quite a bit going on in a live situation,” says Rudd, calling from the Yaletown office of Teamworks management. “It’s a bit of a challenge, and it takes quite a bit of concentration to pull it all together, but I enjoy being on my own.”
Rudd explains that his three “didjes”—which he accesses live via a custom-made metal stand—come from western Australia, and are made from stringy-bark trees, naturally hollowed out by termites. As for the guitar, modelled after those made by Herman Weissenborn in the 1910s and ’20s, Rudd got turned on to it after seeing Vancouver Island guitarist Doug Cox play one. It was crafted by a human, Victoria luthier Neil Russell of Celtic Cross Instruments.
“I have always been kinda intrigued by Weissenborns,” says Rudd. “I’d never really seen one over in Australia, so I said [to Cox], ‘Hey, where’d you get that?’ So I made the journey to Victoria and met [Russell], and it took him seven weeks to build it, and it’s been my favourite thing ever since.”
Rudd’s treasured instrument is used to wonderful effect throughout his full-length debut CD, To Let, samples of which can be heard on his Web site (http://www.xavierrudd.com/). The instrument gets a particularly bluesy workout on the CD’s only cover tune, Jimi Hendrix’s “The Wind Cries Mary”. Not that Rudd is a Hendrix freak or anything. “I wouldn’t say I’m a huge Hendrix fan,” he notes, “but I have a ton of respect for what he did, and I’ve always loved that song. I guess the version I put together is quite different than the original.”
On the afternoon that Rudd rings in, he and soundman/engineer Glen Hirst are preparing for a jaunt up to Whistler and a gig at the Boot Pub, before four-day tours to Alaska and Nashville, a trip over to Alberta, and a journey back to Vancouver for shows at the Railway Club on Wednesday (February 12) and the Royal on Saturday (February 15). Although Rudd’s new manager, Frank Weipert, is making sure his youthful charge gets out where people can see him, the artist himself is taking an easygoing approach to his career.
“I just really appreciate people comin’ out and supporting the music,” he relates, “and that seems to be happening these days. It’s just always been my goal to get my music to as many ears as I can, touch as many emotions as I can, so whatever that allows, I’ll be happy.”