David Gray

David Gray

Welshman David Gray has a few high-powered friends to thank for his success in the States -- namely the Dave Matthews Band. Gray's career in the United States skyrocketed after Matthews released Gray's breakthrough album, White Ladder, on his A.T.O. Records label, then took things further by unabashedly campaigning for Gray and hailing him as one of his all-time favorite artists.

And it paid off. The hit song "Babylon" cracked the airwaves in the States, and Gray earned a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist in 2002. The nod was an almost cruel cosmic joke -- he had already released six albums by that time, and White Ladder was three years old.

Gray's latest record, A New Day at Midnight, is a somewhat darker follow-up to White Ladder. Through his folk-rock beats and husky, rumbling voice, A New Day conveys a shining honesty and a full range of emotions. Gray's piercing lyrics are both accentuated and romanticized by the backing of unconventional electronics (synthesizers are Gray's best friend) and steel guitars, giving his listeners a musical smorgasbord of sounds as they make their way through the emotionally draining yet surprisingly soothing album.

The songwriter was deeply affected by his father's death from cancer, and the loss spurred much of the edgier work on the newer album. Cases in point: the down-tempo, melancholy "Freedom," in which Gray takes an introspective look at his father's passing, and "The Other Side," which is starkly simplistic and relies on Gray's trademark quiver at the end each of verse. But the album has lighter moments, too: The twangy, fast-paced "Caroline" suggests that Gray was once a fan of Clint Eastwood Westerns.

Gray is known to give stirring performances, which are enlivened by Clune, the single-monikered songwriting partner and drummer who is famed for bringing extra mirth to the set with his ghastly Hawaiian shirts and good humor.

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Amy Margolin