David Gray — “Babylon” (from White Ladder) — Babylon

The first vacation A and I ever went on as a couple, we went on primarily so that I could see David Gray in concert. Gray was doing a small club tour previewing his about-to-be-released sixth album, and the closest stop to Austin that made any kind of sense to attempt to traverse toward was San Francisco, so we hopped on a plane and off we went. Before the concert, Gray was just my favorite male singer/songwriter, but by the time the show was over that evening, he was A’s as well. And so it has come to be ever since. I have sixty-two different favorite David Gray tunes, depending solely on what mood I’m in, but PBS reran Gray’s installment of Live from the Artists Den a couple of nights ago, and I watched it while whipping up a pan of Paula Deen’s orange brownies, and I was struck dumb all over again by the gloriously shattering simplicity of this, Gray’s first (and, essentially, only) hit. A chronicle of one crazy weekend in the story of a twisty, tangled love affair — with frantic stream-of-consciousness verses hurtling to and fro across Gray’s skull as he hangs on by his fingernails singing the living hell out of all of them — it’s quite clear, looking back, that with this one tremendous tune, Gray singlehandedly reinvented the idea of the commercially viable troubadour, and tossed out a blueprint for an entire generation of aspiring ones of same — Mayer, Mraz, Yorn anyone? — to study with great cheer and with good faith.

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