David Gray released his new album, Gold In A Brass Age, last week – his first album of new material in four years and his eleventh in a career that has now spanned 25 years. The album is currently number 21 in the Album Chart and a single, ‘The Sapling’, has been released. From the video of the single, below, you can hear that Gray’s voice is as compelling as it was twenty years ago when he part-ruled both album and singles charts. It’s neither urgent, nor whispered nor gravelled but has elements of all these and draws you inexorably into the songs.
Gray describes creating the new album, “I was keen to get away from narrative. Instead of writing melodies, I looked for phrases with a natural cadence, so that the rhythm began with the words. I reimagined where a song might spring from and what form it could take”. As an album, this approach works well, the sophistication of the production blending the songs together, though, it does mean that – apart from the delight of ‘The Sapling’ – the individuality of songs can be lost to the coherence of the album whole.
On her live album Joni Mitchell talks about how early work continues to live on because the performing arts are different from painting (“Nobody ever said to Van Gogh, ‘Paint a Starry Night again, man’ “). In a review of a new album, how far should Gray’s earlier work be mentioned as it stands like a dragon in the gate to anything that follows? Perhaps in relation to his touring? Gold In A Brass Age is supported by a UK and Ireland tour, from March 15th to April 6th, and I can imagine the rich sound of this album working well in these larger venues. I’ve just flicked between the new album and some of Gray’s songs from White Ladder – ‘The Sapling’ in particular stands comparison but other tracks won’t be out of place. Scroll down on Gray’s website and you can find the tour details.
In thinking about the wider arts, it’s worth saying that the album cover is rather striking. Gray sought out a tattoo artist (London Boy) and the gold/black artwork (above) shows an Emperor moth with the London skyline captured in its wingspan. If you look out other tracks from the album on YouTube – ‘A Tight Ship’ or ‘Watching the Waves’, say – you’ll find the artwork has also been turned into elegant videos.
How to sum up? Gold In A Brass Age is a mature album by a notable artist which I’ve enjoyed listening to. It’s rather classy – but that, of course, might just be the point being made by the album’s title.
Artist’s website: https://www.davidgray.com
‘The Sapling’ – official video: