Skellig is David Gray’s twelfth studio album which is no mean feet. His first album in almost two years has been carefully crafted and enveloped with emotion. At thirteen tracks long it is a steady and assure acoustic journey fans of his are sure to love.
Title and opening track Skellig is a relaxing and warming beginning to the record. A guitar has been the most prominent instrument featured throughout Gray’s career and it is the star of this first song. It twists and winds alongside soothing and calming lyrics. Dun Laoghaire is another slow but warm track, an ode to rainy nights as black as Guinness.
The first deviation from purely string instruments is heard in Accumulates. The steady weight of a drum brings some much needed instrumental variation from only guitar which only three songs in does becomes slightly repetitive.
The kind of music Gray has made always lent itself to inward looking emotions, vulnerability and humility. I have found when this is the focus of his lyrics, the rest of the song follows ever so naturally to form a great track. Laughing Gas is the centerpiece of the record, slow like the rest, but feels and sounds raw. The piano provides welcome relief from the sound of a simple guitar. The warm trudge of the piano alongside Gray’s most sincere and serious lyrics of the whole record helps to forge a mark for the album to leave upon listeners. This record was made and crafted prior to the covid-19 pandemic, but this song feels created for the tough times many have experienced in the last year.
The piano returns two songs later in; Deep Water Swim to similar effect. Something about a piano set alongside deep lyrics just works when compared to only a guitar.
Spiral Arms is as solid as the rest of the record, a slow and steady meander through the love of another. I was waiting for it to kick up a gear, go somewhere new and refreshing in its tempo or mood but alas, it is a track at nearly seven minutes long that could be three.
As the album draws to its conclusion, I did feel myself wanting some variety In mood, tempo and overall artistic angle. This is clearly how Gray makes music and how he has achieved his success, however so many of the songs in this album build beautifully, to a point where they could quicken or deepen and they do not. This to some will just be more of the David Gray they have been relishing, to me it left me feeling just a tad unfulfilled. Overall, this is a good album though Gray isn’t trying to stray too far from his formula of minimalistic, instrumental singing and songwriting.