Greg Graffin is a doctor in evolutionary paleontology,
but the man obviously has a large amount of experience with the
traditional musical cultures of rural America. In addition to
being a gifted songwriter and singer in punk stalwarts Bad
Religion, Graffin has taken the time to record an acoustic
album consisting of folk tunes, both traditional songs and some
of his own compositions. Greg Graffin has put together a record
full of songs that have an intimate power, similar to the raw
edge in early Bad Religion, that will appeal to not only previous
fans of his, but also to listeners of rural Americana, as well.
The album starts off with a Graffin composition titled "Don't
Be Afraid To Run" that encapsulates all that is great about
the record. In many ways, the song reminds immediately of BR,
but the harmonica and banjo set the mood a bit towards the earthier
side. Graffin does a tremendous job of relating the horrible story
of "Omie Wise", which is true Americana at its finest.
His delivery is filled with a rich depth that belies the simplicity
of the song, and earns Graffin huge points for roots traditionalism.
"Cold As The Clay" builds in falling guitar slides and
a more Southern Appalachian attitude, brilliantly highlighting
the raw earthiness of Graffin's delivery. Labelmate Jolie Holland
joins in on this track, as well as a few others, lending her own
gravelly voice in superior harmony. Likewise, Greg's take on the
old timey "Little Sadie" is wonderful, filled with rollicking
banjo rolls and a keen sense of what the song is meant to convey,
both in words and sense. The Frazier/Montgomery composition
"California Cotton Fields" is a highlight of the record,
with Graffin's voice blending precisely with Jolie Holland's while
the banjo rolls along blithely, telling such a disheartening story.
While my friends and I have certainly sat around an evening slamming
out old Bad Religion songs on acoustic guitars and seeing the
connection ourselves, it is wonderful to get the chance to hear
Greg Graffin turning out some acoustic songs of his own. While
the songs that he wrote sound mostly like more intimate and acoustic
BR tracks, his takes on a few traditional songs makes this record
a must have for most anyone. Graffin is a talented singer, and
on Cold As The Clay his voice is resplendent and deep,
echoing the sentiments that so many of these songs were written
to portray. Anyone who has ever doubted the tremendous depth of
Graffin's roots need only take one listen to this fine collection
of songs. A new essential piece of alt-Americana has been added
to the world's collection. Make it part of your own.
1. Don't Be Afraid To Run
2. Omie Wise
3. Cold As The Clay
4. Little Sadie
6. Rebel's Goodbye
7. Talk About Suffering
8. Willie Moore
9. California Cotton Fields
10. The Watchmaker's Dial
11. One More Hill
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