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David Gray 

With Turin Brakes. Thursday, July 24, at the Tower City Amphitheater.

David Gray
  • David Gray
There's something decidedly wrong with David Gray's brand of emotional, accessible, well-crafted pop: It doesn't suck. The ingredients don't add up -- one man, random instruments (think piano and pedal steel), and a lot of studio work -- but he's still selling out huge theaters and getting serious airplay. Dave Matthews, of all people, once cited Gray as one of his biggest influences.

Despite the odds, Gray keeps producing album after album of music that simply refuses to stand still and be dull. Unjustly dismissed by some as another underground booga-basement drum-machine-piano-and-guitar guy, Gray makes music that betrays that cliché, running the gamut from sublime (his last big single, "Babylon") to straight-up rock and roll (the ironically titled Sell Sell Sell). Flying under the radar of almost everyone but the Irish (his previous album, White Ladder, was a smash there), he has somehow pulled off the impossible: music that's as real as it is accessible. Colored by both the recent death of his father and the birth of his son, A New Day at Midnight is at once darker and lighter than his previous efforts, yet it never sounds schizophrenic. This sort of surprising contrast is why it works so well. Gray has claimed that the album forced him to be more personal than before, and songs such as "The Other Side" bear out that fact with a fierce definition of character. "Dead in the Water" and "Kangaroo" have the hooks to be singles, but don't really want to be -- and that's part of their charm. For all its commercial appeal, Midnight still reminds you of the really talented guy you knew in college who turned his bathroom into a one-man recording studio. No matter what he churned out, it was, strangely, always pretty blasted good.

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