White Ladder by David Gray


Given the state of mainstream music today, it's truly wonderful to find an album that you can recommend without any qualms. David Gray's latest record, White Ladder, fits right into this category.

Gray is a modern-day Van Morrison - his music is sophisticated, wistful, and reflective. A literate and skillful musician, Gray's mix of acoustic pop-rock and electronica combines in wonderful form on Ladder, with catchy hits like Sail Away and Babylon. Gray's record, his fourth album, is the first release from Dave Matthews' new ATO Records label, and perhaps the radio play and MTV videos for Babylon will finally get this Welshman some mainstream attention for his work.

Gray's songs are passionate yet amiable, cleanly done, with an assemblage of folk balladry accompanied by an abundance of modern skill. On Please Forgive Me, the record's opening track, Gray sticks with pop tradition:

Help me out here
All my words are falling short
And there's so much I want to say
Want to tell you how good it feels
When you look at me that way"

Gray's riffs are unbelievably catchy, but retain a certain ethereal quality that runs throughout the album, his piano and guitar adopting the swaying emotion of a slow waltz. He sings of love lost and hearts divided, of wandering souls and desperate longing for answers, of trying to find a silver lining in a hard life. Amazingly, it's all accomplished without the least sense of falsity. Gray's someone who's a truly rare breed in the pop scene these days: a real musician.

Gray may not know Christ, but he knows how to craft a beautiful album. Set this one aside as perfect for rainy days.

Review by Ben Domenech