Trackpacking: David Gray

by Keith Savage · 7 comments

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Trackpacking is a recurring series highlighting musicians that inspire me to travel.

There’s a soft spot in my heart for singer-songwriters. Just a man and his guitar; musicians like Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Thom Yorke, and Jack Johnson. To get on my short list of must-see acts, the music needs to elicit some kind of emotional response, and it’s this same kind of response that often fuels my travels. David Gray is my favorite of these troubadours.

And I owe my love of this man to my wife.

Somewhere in the middle of the last decade I stumbled upon a mess of Sarah’s old CDs while digging through a moving box or pawing at a cluttered shelf. In the midst of La Oreja de Van Gogh and Jándalo albums hid one I’d actually heard: David Gray’s White Ladder. I remembered seeing daytime TV commercials in 1997 for NOW! This Is Music that featured David Gray singing his most ubiquitous hit, Babylon, juxtaposed with The Chemical Brothers’ Block Rockin’ Beats. At the time, I paid it little heed, but my musical canvas had expanded quite a bit since I was 17 so I popped in the disc. To be honest, I don’t really remember what I thought about hearing the album that day. And it doesn’t matter. The man made our wedding song.

You could put on any David Gray album and I’d gladly listen to it from start to finish. If I’m DJing, however, I’m playing his older, under-appreciated albums. His older albums eschew over-production and instead position simple, often wistful melodies front and center. A certain rawness pervades his music and vocals that grabs your attention for the duration. There’s no escaping the passion in his art, whether a melancholy dirge, an upbeat romp, or stripped down soul. It’s enlivening. Some songs (see my selections below) just pollinate your soul. Perhaps even more than a great musician, David is a consummate poet.

When Sarah and I were in the Orkney Islands of Scotland for our honeymoon, we brought a few of David Gray’s CDs to keep us company on the drives. Our B&B rested in the rolling hills above the town of Stromness. One night as we pulled into the tiny lot after quaffing a few ales in the local pubs, the song Disappearing World started playing on the car stereo. Night had just fallen and only a scattering of lights below told of any civilization. We sat together in the car, a fragile silence balanced between us, as the song played, and stared across the windswept waters.

Pack These Tracks

  • Shine, from A Century Ends. “Feel the wind blow our wanderin’ hearts like a feather.”
  • Gathering Dust, from A Century Ends. “Why am I throwing away the best thing that I’ve found.”
  • Flesh, from Flesh. “Putting flesh on the bones of my dreams.”
  • Forever Is Tomorrow Is Today, from Sell, Sell, Sell. “You say it can’t be done you’d rather die of fun.”
  • Disappearing World, from Life in Slow Motion. “Don’t it just look so pretty, this disappearing world.”

Create a Moment

  • Relax on the deck with a sunset filling your view.
  • Park the car somewhere remote and let the stereo play.
  • Open the Moleskine, ready the inkwell, and put on the headphones.

Have some music that moves you? Share it in the comments – I’d love to hear it!

Original photo by Kmeron via Flickr under Creative Commons

JaimeNo Gravatar August 9, 2010 at 12:38 AM

I love this guys music. I can listen to it ALL DAY LONG and never get tired of it. My favorite album of his is Slow Motion & its funny because I had never heard of him before. I bought that album because I thought the cover looked cool and the line on it “life in slow motion” caught my attention. Have you ever seen him live? I recently had a chance too and OMG HE IS AMAZING. If you haven’t you really should he is well worth it.

Oh and I’m super GLAD that Disappearing World made the cut because that is my ALL TIME favorite song of his & for some reason always makes me want to travel. That line you quoted is inscribed in my head. I love it!!!

Great article!!!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar August 9, 2010 at 9:12 AM

Hey Jaime, totally there with you – David is an incredible inspiration. My wife and I got to see him live this past March in Milwaukee and the show was everything I’d hoped it’d be. He has got one of the deepest catalogs of any artist I’m familiar with. Every song could be my favorite.

What I appreciate most, even more than consistently catchy melodies, is his poetic sensibilities. It’s rare to find such an accomplished musician also a master of words.

AndiNo Gravatar April 30, 2010 at 10:58 PM

I adore him! I love how I usually associate a musician to each country I’ve been in. David Gray was with me on my one of my trips to Australia.
.-= Andi´s last blog ..imgp2629 =-.

KeithNo Gravatar May 2, 2010 at 12:40 AM

I had the same experience with Boards of Canada in Scotland!

GrayNo Gravatar April 28, 2010 at 9:09 AM

David Gray is amazing, he’s a true musician.

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