David Gray's White Ladder is one of those albums that just won't go away, not that we want it to. It was released in 1999 but has enjoyed the sort of slow-build, word-of-mouth campaign that eventually turns casual listeners into true believers and records into platinum.Most of this is because of "Babylon" the soulful, simmering hit that's made the radio safe for singer/songwriters once again. The rest of White Ladder follows in similar fashion with such songs as "Please Forgive Me," "We're Not Right" and Gray's most recent single, "Sail Away."
Gray wasn't always such a mild-mannered performer, however. His entrée into the music business came by way of a school-age band called the Prawns that blasted out a long, loud version of the Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again." By the time he attended the Liverpool College of Art, however, Gray had calmed down and started writing melancholy ballads. His debut, A Century Ends, appeared in 1993. Flesh followed in 1994, and the ironically titled Sell Sell Sell -- which only sold sold sold about 10,000 units -- came out in 1996.
Cut loose from all label affiliations, Gray and collaborator Clune began experimenting with studio gear, inserting samples and hip-hop beats beneath Gray's melodies, resulting in a groove-oriented brand of folk music that has proved irresistible to just about everyone who's heard it.
Thanks to Dave Matthews, who picked up Gray's indie version of White Ladder and made it the first release on his fledgling ATO label, lots of people have heard it. The album was recently certified platinum and still resides in the Top 100 on the Billboard album chart.
As a result of his success, Gray is set to release an album of acoustic rarities, Lost Songs 95-98, that initially appeared in Ireland last year. His concert date at the Pageant is only the third stop on his current tour, which is the largest series of North American dates the singer has ever attempted. Apparently there's no reason for Gray to beat down "Babylon" just yet.