Album Review: David Gray’s Draw The Line

brent johnson posts b&b’s first-ever album review … for David Gray’s Draw The Line

Something illuminating — thrilling even — happened the first time I listened to David Gray’s new album, Draw The Line.

At first, I was a little lax slipping it in my CD player. I even put off listening for a week. I just wasn’t excited. Something told me I wasn’t going to enjoy it.

I actually love David Gray. His lyrics bristle with literature-like energy. His songs are pretty enough to be folk and catchy enough to be pop. And he is an amazingly subtle experimenter — mixing soft electronica into folk-pop.

david gray

But I made the mistake of reading reviews to Draw The Line beforehand.

They noted that he hadn’t made an album in four years and was switching to a new record label with a new band — but none of that translated into new ideas.

I agreed on first listen. There are nice moments on Draw The Line — especially the little hooks of the title track and how Gray, who long toted an acoustic guitar, has turned into a skilled piano player with his own jerky-yet-lilting style. But most of the songs sound lackluster — like second-rate David Gray. They lack the punch and shimmer of the rest of his work.

But then came the last track — the illumination.

It’s called ‘Full Steam,’ a duet with Annie Lennox. After the also-ranness of the first 10 tracks, this one creeps in with off-kilter strings. Then, Lennox’s voice jumps in with immediacy. The melody is oddly wavering. There’s a beautiful line about being ‘adrift on seas of beige.’ And it all comes to a moving crescendo, where the vocals and instruments build together like a movie score.

The song pops. I didn’t expect it. I had to re-listen a few times. It thrilled me.

It was almost a profound moment — a song that redeems a record.