Album Reviews

David Gray – Draw The Line

(Polydor) UK release date: 14 September 2009

Singer-songwriter David Gray believes he is inthe midst of a transformation. Lest you doubt him, the title of hislatest proper release, the surly pose gracing the cover of said album,and the overhauling of his band seem to indicate that the manmeans business.

Gray has commented on the matter. Whenspeaking of the less-introverted subject matter on DrawThe Line, and, in particular, the title track, he noted that, whilethe “previous records were inward most of the time,” the new materialhad shown him to have “kicked the front door down”. Now he’s “outside.”

It turns out that, once the dust had settled about thatdoor, Gray found that he was standing face to face with… well, himself.

In fact Draw The Line doesn’t represent a musical sea changefor him. A rebirth, perhaps, given the aforementioned details,the time separating the previous and current record, as well as thedeclaration, following the release of the down-tempo Life in SlowMotion, of him being intent on pursuing “wholesale changes.” But thosehoping for a new direction in Gray’s music will be quitedisappointed.

But standard Gray fare is by no means unwelcome. As always, acoustic guitars and/or gentle piano are thebackbone for Gray’s raspy, Dylan-esque vocal andthought-provoking lyrics. Singular, syncopated piano notesamble about through the excellent, upbeat lead single Fugitive.

Naturalinstrumentation makes up much of this album’s sound. He’s been avoiding electronic orchestration and synthetic beats since White Ladder. While Fugitive and John Mellencamp-like rockerStella The Artist seem relatively raucous, they are anomalies on thealbum. The remainder of Draw The Line is considerably gentler. Gray slips into typically mild mood on the lullaby Nemesis, whosefloating, lightly reverberated guitar lines call to mind Fin bySupergrass or Galapogos by Smashing Pumpkins, while Kathleen consists of a robust, minor-key piano part that willhave the listener anticipating the arrival of Tori Amos‘svoice.

Also of note, again in the gentle vain, are the outstandingbacking vocals on the intro track and Harder, as well as thoseprovided impressively by guests Jolie Holland and Annie Lennox onKathleen and Full Steam Ahead respectively.

The end result is a pleasing, intimate experience by no meansout of context with the rest of Gray’s catalogue.

But aparently these 11 tracks are but a sampling of the bevyof new songs composed by the revitalized, “hungry” David Gray. Nolonger the self-described “mud-streaked fugitive” hermit, therenowned singer is looking outside his own world and finding plenty ofinspiration.

If Draw The Line is any indication though, theresultant novelty is only with respect to the topics addressed by hislyrics, and not the underlying sound. Musically speaking, one can’thelp but call Gray’s supposed line of demarcation rather faint.

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More on David Gray
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David Gray – Foundling
David Gray – Draw The Line
David Gray @ Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London
David Gray – Life In Slow Motion