Acoustic Lost Songs offers comforting melancholy at Gray
Scene Music Critic
David Gray is a musical force to be reckoned with. This is very apparent on his second U.S. release, Lost Songs 95-98. Gray has already reached understandably great acclaim in his native United Kingdom, yet no country admires him quite like Ireland, who first embraced Gray in 1993 and hasn't let go since.
Finally, the United States is being given a glimpse of Gray, and it looks as though there is plenty to see. Lost Songs affords U.S. audiences a chance to play catch up, and it reveals that they have missed a great deal.
This second U.S. release is different from Gray's first, White Ladder. Lost Songs is a stripped-down acoustic album that features previously unreleased songs from 1995-98. At first listen, this disc may seem too melancholy for fans of Gray's most recent US hit, "Babylon." However, Gray achieves the seemingly impossible task of creating a comforting melancholy on Lost Songs.
It is melancholy because this album takes a journey through Gray's life from 1995-98, a period marred by difficulties for him. During this time, his parents divorced, which seemed to leave Gray feeling naive about matters of the heart. Also during this time he was shuffled through two record labels which left unfulfilled his desire to make music. This personal strife is memorialized on these tracks. Though sad, it lends some comfort, found in the flicker of hope offered by instrumental backdrops in tracks like, "Flame Turns Blue." This flicker is especially felt in "A Clean Pair of Eyes," which ends the CD with a hope for a new beginning and confidence that it can be attained: "And before the might/ of all that's true/ I'll raise my head/ and dream anew with a clean pair of eyes."
Lost Songs is like a "best of" album, in that the listener gets the best of Gray: his voice, his guitar and his lyrics. The album allows the listener to hear Gray's amazing voice, at time slicing through songs — as heard in "As I'm Leaving" — and at other times soothingly sliding across the words, as in "Hold On." Some might liken Gray's voice to the much revered diamond: championed for its clear purity, but also for its abrasive quality. Like a diamond, his voice refracts emotion, thought, and energy.
Gray is an amazing lyricist who holds nothing back, offering up his life for his listeners. This unabashed openness appears on every track of Lost Songs. "As I'm Leaving" reveals this openness to a backdrop of both Gray's guitar and piano. The rawness of his voice is best heard here, "To the soul of everything/ throw my heart out/ on the stones/ and I'm almost gone." "Falling Down the Mountainside" also accents Gray's voice with the backdrop of a piano and a slightly deeper bass underpinning. Amidst this blend lie the carefully crafted lyrics of Gray: "Pin your heart/ on your sleeve/ spouting all that make-believe/ from your lips/ it seemed it might come true/ falling down the mountainside with you."
Lost Songs is an open journey through Gray's life from 1995-98. It is an excellent album from the first to the last track, highlighting both Gray's musical and lyrical talents. Gray is the kind of artist who was meant to make music. It's as simple as that.
All Scene Stories for Tuesday, April 24, 2001