I have a soft spot in my heart for David Grey’s records White Ladder and Sell, Sell, Sell in the mid to late 1990s. I find his passionate voice and sparse acoustic / electronic instrumentation to be a match made in heaven. However, those two records are so perfect for me that I never went looking for more. So, I found myself becoming immersed in those records, as opposed to exploring his new material. Then I stumbled across his new record Skellig and decided to give it a spin…and I’m glad I did.
In a way, this record is like going back in time to 1998 when he released White Ladder. In a lot of ways, Skellig plays like the record he should have released after White Ladder instead of the electro infused sound of records like Gold in a Brass Age. In my opinion, Grey’s lyrical talent and vocal power is lost when it competes against electronica and post production vocal effects. In his track Heart and Soul Grey returns to his timeless formula of lush acoustic guitars and strings with his powerful vocal up front in the mix. Musically, this track is pretty straight forward. There is some bass and lush syth in the background, which creates a warm foundation for his acoustic guitar and vocals to play off of. The contrast between his vocals / guitar and the bass / syth really makes him pop. There is a warmth and comfort that causes you to drift and be carried away with his vocal. I love this formula for Grey and it is great to hear him go back to it.
Lyrically, Grey celebrates returning to the simplicity of pure heart and soul. He sings about the light “shining in my eyes / like I’m three years old.” Grey is returning to the innocence of youth where there are no misrepresentations and one is pure of heart and soul. He longs for the purity of youth he has lost in modern life. After twelve records, Grey’s maturity comes through in how he sees the value in simplicity, in one’s heart and soul. He is no longer caught in the trappings of materialism, modernism and a sanitised life. There is beauty in the real emotion and feeling in one’s self. He underlines this when he sings; “And if I die tonight / To ask for more / Would be obscene.” The purity of the river, of the self and of the heart is enough.
In many ways, Heart and Soul is a song about a man who is comfortable in his skin. Grey doesn’t need modern electronic flourishes in his music or over complicated lyrical gymnastics. All he needs is a simple musical arrangement and the innocence and wonder of a child. However, within this simplicity one can find meaning and you can find a heart warming and uplifting track.
Listen to Heart and Soul