Gray urges fans to combat life’s trials by relying on a “Silver Lining” woven from youthful optimism. “This Year’s Love,” “Sail Away,” “My Oh My” and “Please Forgive Me” express either the thrill of love or a desire for lasting romance. On “Babylon,” a man realizes the negative impact of jealousy, bitterness and ridicule. The title track clings to the notion that there is some “rhyme or reason” to love and life. While melancholy, “Nightblindness” wants to rise above the stone-cold status quo to find “a brighter day.”
References to drugs and alcohol mar this project. The singer claims, “chemicals are rushing through my bloodstream” (“Babylon”) and gets drunk to discover what makes people tick (“Sail Away”). “We’re Not Right” features a guy who habitually turns to a bottle for comfort (to its credit, the song mentions undesirable side effects such as shaky hands and headaches). An ambiguous, yet clearly unhealthy rendezvous is central to “Say Hello, Wave Goodbye.”
A vocal hybrid of Bob Dylan and Garth Brooks, David Gray recorded this album at his London home with the windows open and the traffic going by, eschewing what he calls “big-budget sterility” in favor of raw poetry. It works. White Ladder has a refreshingly stripped-down feel. Lazy piano. Acoustic guitar. If not for its lyrical substance abuse, this would’ve been a worthwhile pick.