Draw the Line
Stella the Artist
Editors’ Notes David Gray started his career as a Van Morrison acolyte wielding an acoustic guitar, wresting existential angst from a whirring loop of simple chords and aching vocal jumps. Over the years, he’s found his voice with a tight, unobtrusive backing band that flirts with early-'70s soft rock while occasionally spiking up the electricity with an extra warm guitar chord. The title track here perfectly demonstrates what Gray does best. The chords in the bridge head toward pending doom only to be rescued by the contemplative and gentle acoustic picking that sets up things for Gray’s emotional, but never overwhelmed, delivery. Gray often trades the guitar for piano these days where the elliptical chords make their reappearance for “Jackdaw” and provide the backdrop for his duet with Jolie Holland on “Kathleen” and his pensive rumination “Transformation.” “Stella the Artist” kicks up the tempo, while his closing duet with Annie Lennox on “Full Steam” sounds quite passionate.