Draw the Line
Brooding is a word I’ve come to associate with David Gray. Even his most intimate love ballads belie a moody underbelly that suggests struggle and consequence to even the strongest of bonds. Perhaps this characteristic comes from his Welsh roots. There is something windblown and ragged about his songs, a defiance that assures that, even in the face of defeat, there is dignity. Gray dissects the messy feelings, finds the healthy emotions beneath and, presents both within in a buoyant mix of folk/pop tempos.
Introspection is territory Gray has trod before and he again embarks on a journey that tackles big philosophical questions and personal quagmires. Mortality is a subject that crept into Gray’s work after the death of his father. “Fugitive” the opening track and first single from the record, asks that ominous, never-to-be-answered question – why are we here and what to do while we are? This sentiment echoes throughout the album, sometimes prominently, just as often, distantly. Gray’s other subject to worry over is romantic love. He isn’t the type of singer/songwriter to offer glossy love ballads. His paeans to romance depict the complexity of bringing two vulnerable souls together. “Kathleen” is a gorgeous but very sad song that implies love's power to rob us of ourselves. “I gazed so hard into the great aching sky/it seemed that I, I wasn’t here no more” he sings. Jolie Holland’s (The Be Good Tanyas) melancholy accompaniment offsets Gray’s wounded crooning.
Draw the Line is Gray’s first album since 2005 and also marks the departure of his long-time collaborator Craig McCune due to a diminishing “create spark”, hence the album’s title. “Draw the Line” focuses on taking action when the time for change has come. “Transformation” is positively hymn-like as Gray offers himself up to a power beyond himself. Besides the change in collaborator Gray also has a new backing band which includes Neill MacColl (Kirsty’s brother), Robbie Malone, and Keith Pryor. Gray recorded the 11 new songs at Church Studios which he purchased from The Eurythmics. One half of that duo, Annie Lennox, joins Gray on the politically fueled “Full Steam.” If ever there was another singer who could match Gray’s capacity for righteous angst it is Lennox. As the pair sing out “Forlorn, adrift on seas of beige/in this our golden age” you can’t help but feel the shivers coming on, almost as if you were on a lonesome Welsh bluff, contemplating the drop below you.