David Gray-Folkie But Not at the Folk Fest

When David Gray started work on his latest albums, ‘Draw The Line,’ which dropped  in 2009 and ‘Foundling,’ which was released last week,’ two years ago, he felt like he was starting over.       That feeling was appropriate since there are parallels between his most recent work and his first album, ‘A Century Ends,’ which was released in 1993.       The albums, which bookend Gray’s career have that organic, raw, human element, which is lacking in the current producer era.        “When you listen to what’s out there now, there’s a lack of warmth,” Gray said. “What’s radio friendly doesn’t sound very friendly to me. That’s why I don’t listen to the radio.”       During the ‘90s, it appeared that the cerebral singer-songwriter would never land on the radio.     Gray’s third album was dubbed ‘Sell, Sell, Sell’ but his first three albums failed to do just that.       “It got to be really depressing during the ‘Sell’ tour,” Gray said. “Things were just not working out. It didn’t seem like anything was going to work for me. Once you get a reputation in this business, well, that can be hard to shake.”       But things changed dramatically for Gray a year after the release of his fourth album, ‘White Ladder.’ The single ‘Babylon became a major hit in the United Kingdom. Dave Matthews signed Gray to a deal with his ATO Records and tabbed the English songsmith as his tour support.      “Things changed wildly for me,” Gray said. “It was an amazing transformation.  But the thing is that ‘White Ladder’ did well by word of mouth. It didn’t get the papal blessing from Q or Rolling Stone magazine. It was a crazy thing.”        Gray graduated to theaters and never left that world. The clever bard, who will co-headline with Ray LaMontagne Friday at the Susquehanna Bank Center, released a pair of major label albums, 2002’s ‘A New Day At Midnight’ and 2005’s “Life in Slow Motion.’       But Gray is back as an independent artist with his recent work. “I feel very comfortable being an indie performer,” Gray said. “It’s as if I’ve been released from a strait jacket. I can do what I want to do.”      Gray wanted to make a simpler album. “I didn’t want to go through this big production,” Gray said. “I didn’t want to layer two acoustic guitars to get this big glossy sound. I wanted something that is well more like ‘Century.’ (These albums) are like a cousin of ‘Century.’ There are obvious common denominators.”      However, don’t expect Gray to toss much of ‘Century’ in his set just because it’s sonically similar to ‘Draw The Line.’       “I won’t do that,” Gray said. “I can’t do it. Maybe I’ll do a song from ‘Century.’ Maybe I won’t do a song from ‘Century.’ I have too many songs now. Some I have to play but I do love the sound of ‘Century’ and my new material.”       His early and recent material remind him of the early work by his heroes Bob Dylan and Van Morrison. “They both put out these kinds of albums and that style of music is near and dear to my heart,” Gray said. “That’s why I had to put out (‘Draw the Line’ and ‘Founding’) an album like ‘Draw The Line.’ I was moved.”

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