1998, Music

White Ladder (1998) by David Gray

When I lived in rez, my neighbour played this record fairly frequently because he loved Dave Matthews and Dave Matthews put it out in the US. (He seems to have played it so much that, a few years later, I would insist that the men in my rez only liked DMB, Sublime and David Gray, though I think this was probably far from true.) But, nearly 20 years later, I only remember the two biggest hits, which must have had some radio play and I think been in some movies, because I definitely know them. (I will say that, for some reason, I didn’t connect these songs with the David Gray I heard in university. Who knows why.)

This is very pleasant, accessible folk and folk pop with little bits of electronic music reminding you that you are in the late 1990s. Folktronica it’s called, apparently. (Also, Gray’s voice is a reminder you’re in the 1990s, as I have a bit of trouble imagining him as a singer songwriter in the 1970s, but maybe that’s my lack of imagination.) Gray has a strong sense of melody and his lyrics are fine, though I can’t say they grab me very often. It’s all very fine.

The overall fineness of this record is, in fact, the thing that I find absolutely incredible about this because… did you know this is the best selling record in the history of Ireland? I’m serious. Not U2. Not Sinead. Not Van Morrison. Not The Corrs. Not Enya. White Ladder. 23 times Platinum. The whole country must have copies. I thought this record would be too innocuous to be that successful but perhaps, as my girlfriend suggested, it’s the very blandness of this record that made it such a hit. (And just in case you think it’s just the Irish who are crazy, this also when 10 times Platinum in the UK.) Just fascinating.


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