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David Gray: A New Day At Midnight


David Gray

Album: A New Day At Midnight
Label: ATO/RCA

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Welsh-born, London-based singer-songwriter David Gray traveled a long and difficult road to stardom, leaving behind a string of disappointing label deals and albums that failed to find more than a small, dedicated following. Fortunately for Gray, Dave Matthews became a fan, signing him to his vanity label and working to turn both White Ladder and its single "Babylon" into sizeable hits. Adding tinny techno beats to standard ingredients (a warm baritone, pianos, acoustic guitars) gave the album enough flavor to set it apart from the work of countless singer-songwriter types making similarly heartfelt folk-pop, and the result has sold millions of copies worldwide. After several years and one gap-filling compilation, the inessential but pleasantly illuminating Lost Songs 95-98, Gray returns with A New Day At Midnight, a clear-cut stylistic sequel to the album that made his name. The alchemy of White Ladder remains in effect: On the winning "Caroline," Gray cuts through layers of electronic clatter with an infusion of B.J. Cole's pedal-steel guitar, giving the track a mixture of warmth and chilliness that's become an odd trademark. A New Day At Midnight should be more varied in its approach, especially during a saggy midsection that eventually gives way to a rewardingly elemental final third. But Gray is smart enough to stick to a winning formula, making these dour but likable songs instantly recognizable as his own.