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Greg Graffin

Cold as the Clay – 2006 (Anti-/Epitaph)

Reviewed by Kevin Oliver

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CDs by Greg Graffin

As part of California hardcore entrepreneurs Bad Religion, Greg Graffin wrote some great melodic punk rock songs and formed the Epitaph record label to release them. This disc finds him exploring his family roots, with the songs split between traditional old time music and a handful of newly written songs, all tracked in just eight days. You can hear the intimacy with which the tracks were recorded, with the musicians knee-to-knee in a circle, when Graffin quietly counts off a song or calls out a final turnaround.

Graffin's vocals are strong throughout, with the largely acoustic setting allowing the weathered characteristics of his voice to surface. On his own songs, Graffin veers towards atmospheric, Built To Spill-style Americana, while the harmonica lead-in on, "Don't Be Afraid To Run," evokes the Springsteen anthem, "The River."

The instrumentation, which includes banjo, mandolin, piano, and guitars, places both the traditional fare and Graffin's newly minted tunes in the same timeless frame. Jolie Holland offers up some sweet harmonies on several songs, including the title track and the gospel tune, "Talk About Suffering," which sounds like something Gillian Welch should have recorded.