It’s hard to talk about David Gray without mentioning ‘White Ladder’, although apparently it can rather get on his nerves. A powerhouse songwriting performance in any fair judge’s book, it captured a moment and in Ireland in particular seemed to be in virtually everybody’s CD player at once for a couple of years.
Ultimately, the record became something of a weight round the Gray neck and the singer himself acknowledges that ‘Draw The Line’ is his latest attempt to open new ground by reconnecting with his musical roots.
On ‘Transformation’, a simply arranged traditional style melody, he sings "take me back where I came from" and that is very much the theme.
In large part he succeeds; Gray has caught something here.
New single 'Fugitive' and 'Nemesis - two of the standout tracks - get things off to a strong start. The latter’s regret soaked imagery in particular has an authenticity and edge to it. As the record develops, things tighten up a little in the middle section with ‘Kathleen’ and ‘Jackdaw’; a pair of smaller songs you could listen to all day purely for their taut construction and driving momentum.
The pace then picks up with ‘Breathe’ and ‘Stella The Artist’, which move into rockier territory and are crowd pleasers in the making. Annie Lennox is the co-vocalist for rousing finale ‘Full Steam’ and though it isn’t quite the crescendo of ‘Say Hello, Wave Goodbye’ (sorry David), it’s a strong end to a fine record.
The caveats are that, on occasion, otherwise decent songs swerve down rhyming dictionary lane. For example, title track ‘Draw The Line’ didn’t hit home for me.
But the imagery is sometimes striking, particularly on the second or third listen, and the sound is strong.
This is a set of songs with a lot of heart.