Some musicians can write music; some can sing their own tunes, and some can sing others'. David Gray can do it all. Released solely on his website and the merchandise booth at his live gigs, A Thousand Miles Behind is a covers album through and through. All the songs are culled from lives shows, primarily from 2006 and 2007, with two from 2001 thrown in for good measure, from San Diego to Scotland, Idaho to Ireland, Nashville to Melbourne. Nearly half of the album is comprised of either Dylan or Springsteen covers, two artists whose class Gray fits into perfectly from a poetic standpoint. From the rhythmic swing of "To Ramona" to the power in "Streets of Philadelphia," we hear from a great artist who, in his own words, describes the experience as "getting under the skin of someone else's song." "One Too Many Mornings" is a lament, even if at the end tries to cover it up with an agree-to-disagree standpoint. Gray, like few in his generation, is really able to tap into that emotion. In the same manner, Randy Newman's "I Think It's Going to Rain Today" gets a similar treatment. Gray's vocals, accompanied only by a piano, are more assured than Newman's original in this haunting rendition of hope trying to overcome bleakness. It's easily a top-notch performance in Gray's distinguished career. Most of the songs are reflective, a byproduct of the set being primarily singer/songwriter material. "I Tremble for You" is the perfect song to describe heartbreak for those who have never been through it. His voice isn't as gravelly as Johnny Cash's but still resonates with pure loneliness. The slide guitar echoes in the background like the ghost of a lost lover's call as it intertwines with Gray's voice. Covers are usually something we only get a song or two at a time, either in concert or from an obscure B-side, so it's nice that we get to here a full collection that sounds as if it was a concert planned accordingly. For a different perspective of artistic measurement, the collection helps to add another piece to Gray's puzzle. Whether you own his other CDs or not, A Thousand Miles Behind is a journey well worth traveling.
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AllMusic Review by Eric Luecking