David Gray - White Ladder - Review
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critics' view

English singer-songwriter David Gray recorded his fourth album, White Ladder, at home in 1998 and self-released it after three previous albums garnered critical acclaim and little else. Opening for the likes of Dave Matthews and Radiohead helped up his profile and led to Matthews choosing White Ladder as the U.S. debut for his new ATO label. It's not difficult to hear what attracted Matthews to Gray. There's a strong dose of romantic wanderlust to these tunes. "This Year's Love," with its somber piano notes, captures the drifter feel of earlier Gray work (such as the remarkable "A Gathering of Dust" from his debut)."Sail Away" is "Dock of the Bay" from another side of the shore. Gray clearly loves words, and the way he emphasizes them - spitting them out in contempt one minute, soulfully stretching a note out at other moments - lends his music drama. It's no wonder he's been compared to so heavy an improviser as Van Morrison. There's a spiritual connection there that this strong release makes only more obvious.

Rob O'Connor
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