David Gray

Draw the Line

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After taking a four-year break from the studio, David Gray announced his return with a new backing band, new label representation, and this new album. 2009's Draw the Line is consistent with the rest of Gray's catalog, proof that the songwriter's appeal rests not in those around him but in his nuanced piano ballads and warm, calloused voice. There are two duets here, one with folk artist Jolie Holland and the other with a rather militant-sounding Annie Lennox, but the best material is reserved for Gray alone. He does what he does best on songs like "Transformation," whose homespun melody is at once warm and utterly heartbreaking, but he also makes room for faster material, from the rhythmic drive of "Stella the Artist" to the casual strut of lead-off track "Fugitive." Regardless of the tempo, Gray's voice remains the centerpiece of this album, as his lived-in vocals continue to amass more conviction and grit with age. Those looking for another "Babylon" probably won't find such commercial appeal here, but David Gray hasn't concerned himself with the mainstream for years, and Draw the Line is essentially another cog in the folksy wheel he's been spinning since New Day at Midnight. [Die-hard fans may want to pick up the album's deluxe edition, which includes a 20-page booklet and a bonus CD of live performances.]

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