Though he’s backed by a new band, David Gray doesn’t change his trademark formula much on Draw the Line. There’s a bit more heft to some of his arrangements here, with the driving guitar strum of “First Chance” and the surprisingly deep rhythm track on “Stella the Artist,” but his bread and butter remains the introspective, piano-driven troubadour ballad. Fortunately for Gray, he does that style better than many of his contemporaries, and he’s simply a better, more nuanced singer than other AAA radio staples like Josh Rouse or John Mayer. With his gritty, calloused tenor, Gray is able to bring a fitting world-weariness to songs like lead single “Fugitive” and the moody title track. Though he’s able to turn a surprisingly deft phrase now and then, Line settles into a midtempo groove in its middle run, and, however lovely songs like “Transformation” and “Nemesis” may be, they aren’t breaking any new ground for Gray. Even when he’s joined by Annie Lennox, who is in predictably stellar voice, for the militaristic stomp of “Full Steam,” it’s hard to shake the impression that Gray is coasting. Only when he picks up the pace somewhat, as on “Fugitive” and “Jackdaw,” which sounds like a long-lost Bruce Hornsby single, does the album really command attention. The knock on Gray has always been that he’s a bit boring, and Line, despite some genuinely nice moments and affecting vocal turns, isn’t likely to change anyone’s mind on that point. It’s more likely to make for unobtrusive background music at Starbucks.
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