Welsh songwriter David Gray has taken some hard knocks through his critically acclaimed, four-album career, with commercial disappointment forcing record-label leaps for each release, despite big-name support from heavyweights Radiohead and Dave Matthews. Appropriately, then, it's admitted fan Matthews that brings Gray's fourth effort, the sparse, electro-folkie "White Ladder," to its U.S. light of day by way of his own ATO imprint. (The release is already No. 1 in Ireland.)
For those familiar with Gray's previous work, "Ladder" will surely come as a surprise. From the jungle-light rhythms that kick in album-opener "Please Forgive Me," through the similarly tripped-up "Babylon," a new textural understanding infuses Gray's already revelatory folk.
"White Ladder" is a sonic masterpiece, really, one that breezes and sways despite its obvious sensitivity. Gray closes with a cover of the Soft Cell weepie "Say Hello, Wave Goodbye" and turns the fey anthem into something decidedly Gray.