Mr Gray has produced a not insignificant body
of work since his 1993 debut 'A Century Ends'.
I cannot say that I have ever been a fan of his music.
'White Ladder' won him legions of admirers and I could
not count myself among them.
He was good. He possessed a kind of everyman charm
and an approachable, uncluttered and unpretentious
compositional style which did not demand too much of
his listeners. Good....but not that good.
His last album, 2005's 'Life In Slow Motion' delivered
some of his best songs to date - I will admit to being
rather fond of 'The One I Love' and 'From Here You Can
Almost See The Sea', both perfectly decent tunes.
With 'Draw The Line', however, my attention has been caught
in quite a different way. This album is more than good.
It is very, very good indeed. A revelation in fact.
Suddenly it seems that Mr Gray has discovered a rich and
deep seam of golden creativity hidden from him until now.
The eleven songs in this collection are the product of
an untethered artist, recorded in his own studio and with
a stunning new bunch of musical compatriots breathing life
and energy into the project. Everyone gives of their best.
The album as a whole has a wonderfully coherent ambience.
Warm, dry and vividly alive. The voice is always well-forward
in the mix and he has never sung better
Now, here's a thing...stay with me here for a moment... a wayward
thought perhaps...but...I am reminded of some of Elton John's
finest music of the early seventies; the Elton John of
'Tumbleweed Connection' and 'Madman Across The Water'.
This reflection is nothing less than respectful in intent.
Mr John's songs of that period were truly great; created before the rot
of excessive showmanship set in. He was as good as it got back then.
'Draw The Line' is a masterpiece of restrained, unshowy songwriting
of the very highest calibre. This is as good as it gets right now !
From the solid piano chords and chattering snare at the opening
of 'Fugitive' to the simply beautiful closing duet with Annie Lennox,
(an inspired and inspiring pairing!) 'Full Steam', there is not one
weak or lacklustre idea in the whole bunch.
The limpid guitar eddies and gorgeously restrained brass arrangement
on 'Nemesis' frames, arguably, Mr Gray's finest moment.
A once-in-a-lifetime song for any artist.
The truth of the tale cuts like a knife.
'Kathleen' is a tender, rolling composition enhanced by
Jolie Holland's fragile but expressive harmonies.
'First Chance' is another stunner. A stripped-down, edgy number
blessed with a raw and beautifully sustained vocal performance.
'Transformation' and 'Breathe' provide further evidence that
the composer is riding the biggest creative wave of his career.
It's a wave I was happy to be carried along by from
the beginning to the end of this stupendous album.
Where once there was doubt (mine) there is now complete conviction.
David Gray has left his acoustic sound behind and is relying on his voice, his majestic lyrics and music. David Gray had four CD's after 'White Ladder' and they were all good, but none of them ever reached the pinnacle of his first hit, 'White Ladder'. The eleven songs on this CD are not all elevated to a great level, but most of them hit the high marks.
Some say this CD is resonant of his earlier works, and there are not any great changes. With his true voice rising from the first tune 'Fugitive', this will be the break out song. 'Seeing a twinkling in your eye, gotta try'.
'Draw The Line' gives us a list of ills and warns us to move on - life is too short'. 'Nemesis' is a tune of soulfulness and longing. 'Stella the Artist' is one of those songs that you remember for its lyrics. 'Kathleen' with Jolie Holland was not as appeasing to me as others. 'Transformation' is a tune I like- it is the end and the beginning of something new. 'Full Steam' with Annie Lennox is a nice ending, but I couldn't quite put it together with the rest of the CD. Disc 2 gives us 8 songs from other CD's and is a nice addition. Can't quite figure out why those eight tunes were included, but will take them for what they are!
This CD has a rich, sweeping sound. 'Draw the Line' is not much different than David Gray's other CD's. If you are expecting a CD that inspires and rewards this is it. 'Draw the Line' is an album to savour . Enjoy!
Recommended. prisrob 10-12-09
A New Day at Midnight
on 9 October 2009
I've been a David Gray fan for many years now and despite some ups and downs remain a fervent admirer of this artist.
Draw the line bursts alive with 'Fugitive' and right from that moment; I knew I was going to enjoy the album.
Although New Day at Midnight and LISM were good enough albums in themselves, I felt there was some essential element of D Gray missing from the albums. Is this unusual? Probably note, and if you think hard enough about other artists you like, I'm sure you will find there were times when you sort of 'fell out of love' with them.
In Davids case he was faced with the difficult task of living up to huge expectations after the success of White Ladder and importantly, the smaller retro success of previous albums, eg, Sell, Lost Songs, Century Ends etc. People discovering these albums encountered a talented, raw and above all passionate artist and musician. It was hard not to be affected by him. When I saw the DVD production/album of David at the 'Point' in Dublin, I saw an artist with enormous passion who was enjoying the people who were enjoying the concert. In other words he was not just performing to them. I occasionally watch the DVD just to see this magic happen.
After listening to New Day, in my minds eye, I could picture some marketing/label geeks telling David how to make his music, already very special to millions of fans, more marketable to others. So maybe somewhere along the line his music lost some of its soul, depth and the edginess that we love.
David, here, is in some ways an easy artist to pick on. Because of his depth of character and musical ability, evident in his lyrics and composition, this gives critics an easy platform from which to cast some shallow and unhelpful comments.
The same can also be said of some of his 'fans' who relate everything he does today to White Ladder. Time moves on and people evolve (thankfully).
Draw the Line, to me, is David expressing himself in the same way as in the early 2000's without just 'copying pasting' pervious songs. There is something very exciting in this album and once again I could hear the raw passion and musical talent which makes him such a great artist. The new band members are great and despite the departure of the charismatic Cloone, the new drummer, Keith Pryor, is hugely talented and adds great style to the album.
There has been quite a bit written about the duets with Lennox and Holland. Personally, I find the two tracks very powerful and I believe this is something David should further explore.
Its hard to say what is my favourite track on the album, but if I had to point to one at the moment it would be Kathleen. Next week I might have another...
I'd sum up by saying the David is evidently master of his own ship on this album, has set a great course and I'm enjoying being along for the trip.
on 18 October 2009
I always find myself comparing david grays output to white ladder it contains so many great songs and such a hard act to follow but david always delivers great music and has produced so many decent tunes since white ladder i had no hesitation buying draw the line , after playing it once i was delighted with what i heard , he's certainly moved out of his comfort zone musically and the result is a cd full of eleven exceptionally good songs .
Davids distinctive voice sounds in good shape and he delivers the songs with such clarity its always better when you can hear the words , the music is excellent but not overpowering but very layered and the whole thing works , lots of depth in the lyrics ,certainly not a cd of churned out tracks , each one stands on its own two feet and there are possibly several potential hit singles on this cd but not because of their commercial potential but because they are very good songs which stick in your head , its actually a cd you can sit down and listen to and not just have on in the background .
One reviewer compares this cd to elton johns earlier output , i would totally agree with those comments , it does have that feel about it , its good honest songwriting performed with musical eloquence a rare thing to find .
I've never been the biggest fan of David Gray, more like a quiet admirer who appreciates the craft and passion in his work, but "Draw The Line", I have to say, has drawn me into the realms of fandom. This is such a fantastic album, it would be difficult to criticise it even if I wanted to. "White Ladder" is surely his best loved album, but "Draw The Line" has to be his best to date. There is a almost effortless brilliance to each and every track. Maybe it has been coming for a long time, after all, every album has had at least a couple of stand-out tracks, but with this release David Gray has made the classic he's always threatened to produce. Nothing here is overwrought, over-baked or over-produced - it is simply a restrained, classy, poignant and truly mature piece of work. As near to perfect as an album can be.
Not only is this full to the brim with excellent songs, but it's so beautifully recorded as well. The choice of instrumentation complements each track beautifully. The guitars ring out, the strings sound clear and bright, without being too lush, the piano notes are sumptuously rich and Gray's voice is in fine form. "Draw The Line" is the sound of an artist at the peak of his powers. Highlights - well, every song, really. That may sound like a cop-out, but it's true. If you push me to name favourites then I'd have to go for the upbeat opener "Fugitive", the beautiful but slightly sinister "Nemesis", the superbly rousing "Jackdaw", the gorgeous "Kathleen", the magical and somehow traditionally Scottish-sounding "Transformation" and the folky but explosive "Breathe". Yes, I'm fully aware that I've just named three-quarters of the album, but that's just the way it is. It's extremely difficult to choose favourites when the whole album is comprised of such quality material.
However, perhaps the most noteworthy song on this excellent collection is the last track, a magnificent duet between David and Annie Lennox, which builds into a spine-tingling climax. Yes, that's right. A duet between David Gray and Annie Lennox which is just stone-cold amazing. I wouldn't have believed it either, but there you go. If you have any pre-conceptions about David Gray and his music, please leave them at the door before you put this album on, because I'm positive that "Draw The Line" could convince all but the most hard-line sceptics of his immense talent. This is a real album, from a real musician for lovers of real music. Who could ask for more?
One of the very best of 2009.
on 17 September 2009
Draw The Line is simply a wonderful and ephemeral album. It is full of memorable, creative and original music that has meaning and soul.
Everytime I hear Nemesis the hairs on the back of my neck stand to attention. This song really touches my inner core because of its beauty, phrasing and meaning. Jackdaw rises to a crescendo as it soars towards its end and is just magical. Even the final song, Full Steam, leaves you wanting to hear more from Gray because of the way it elegantly captivates you.
David Gray is a masterful songwriter and the songs are all beautifully crafted.
I have listened to this continously since I bought it and it is like fine wine, it just gets better and better.
Disc two showcases his live performance and wannabes karoke singers on those awful so-called talent shows should listen to this because they will hear true, unadulterated talent that is so far removed from the over-produced pap that pollutes the airwaves.
David Gray is simply brilliant
on 16 September 2009
To put it simply. This is a very, very good album. No its not White Ladder and no David Gray won't write another White Ladder because all albums are different so if you are looking for White Ladder then buy it and listen to it. This is an album that stands alone as an excellent set of songs that are all individual and different yet throughout the album you have the familiar, soothing, unique voice that is unmistakable. Put that with choruses that pull on your heart strings and stick with you throughout your day. The song writing is as always superb from Gray but you wouldnt expect anything less. Highlights for me are 'Fugitive' that is very easy listening and an instant hit as is 'Jackdaw'. 'Nemesis' and 'First Chance' seem to be get better every time you listen to them and have such depth and quality. This is a high class piece of work from Gray and Gray's fans will not need encouragement to buy it and nor should they as he delivers every time!
on 5 December 2009
I agree with A Sweeney's review below. I have not been a big fan of David Gray's music up to now. I admire 'Babylon' as a fine piece of music but just about everything else since has not really hit that spot. However, along comes 'Draw the Line'. After seeing David and the awesome Annie Lennox perform 'Full Steam' on TV I was spellbound - I thought I had been transported to a place where music is always exceptional and X Factor didn't exist.
So, I purchased 'Draw the Line' the next day from Amazon. What hits you about this new album is that the production is clean and crisp; each musician means what he or she is playing. The man himself has found his mojo again - every song without exception is superb. From the urgent opener 'Fugitive' to the menacing 'Jackdaw', the man is on fine form. It is all sung from the heart. While there is little in terms of style change (you know who it is), it is a simple case that each song deserves to be heard, deserves to be on an album.
I have also purchased the Special Edition CD with tracks recorded at the Roundhouse which is definitely worth the extra fiver. Surprise, surprise, the live recording of 'Babylon' is hard to beat! All in all then, this is a fine album from a man who has found his groove and knows it. He sounds very confident and deserves a lot of success with this album. Great stuff!
on 6 January 2010
One of the few cds where the whole cd is wonderful. An uplifting, marvellous collection of terrific songs. Especially love 'Full Steam Ahead' with Annie Lennox - what a great song (first heard this on Jools Holland and bought the cd straight away). Great for a gift and especially great for car-driving!
on 24 May 2010
I have been a big David Gray fan since White Ladder. I found his early stuff hard to get into but am getting there gradually. All four studio albums (including Lost Songs) from White Ladder onwards were completely captivating and truly special, even though some songs took longer to appreciate than others. I so wanted this one to be just as special, but I have to say I'm struggling with it. I played it a few times when it was first released but sort of shelved it for awhile. I tried again yesterday, and really went into it with an open mind but after a few tracks I'm sorry to say I was just bored,but I saw it through to the end in the hopes that it would click with me. Well it didn't, although I truly hope that one day it will.
I'm sure David is trying his best to be creative and not simply try for another White Ladder, and thats understandable, but I must ask the question - if it had not been for the brilliance of Whhite Ladder and the following albums, would anyone really bother about this record? A brutal and harsh assessment I know, but true I think nonetheless. I think he misses the chemistry that Clune brought to his work, and although he has talent in spades I think its the old story of a gifted artist simply not being aware of where his talent truly lies. Of course I'll buy his future albums (all of them) with high hopes, and understand that even great artists have fallow periods yet come back with another masterpiece sooner or later, look at Neil Young, Brian Wilson etc. Yes I do put David Gray in that bracket, but as for this one, I think it'll remain mainly on the shelf. Oh, and what an awful cover too.........