I never really bonded with Bad Religion the way some people did; I remember getting scowled at by the people with the band’s patches safety-pinned to their packs and jeans. Still, Graffin is someone you probably should respect, even for those of us who were never B.R. fans. He’s released a shit-ton of albums over the past twenty-five years — so many, in fact, that it seems hard to believe that Cold as the Clay is his first proper solo affair.
Graffin’s self-proclaimed roots — traditional folk music (Americana, if you will) — is the foundation for Cold as the Clay, and a few things are evident. His ear for country-folk is dead on, and his voice lends itself well in this setting. Some artists, such as Billy Bragg, get labeled as “punk” for their attitude, but their music isn’t “punk” in the way we’ve (unfortunately) commodified it. But Graffin has long been associated with punk rock (the sound), and he’s taking a risk in trying to crossover to a whole different genre.
But he pulls it off by complementing his pick of obscure traditional songs with five originals — something that suggests he’s much more interested in the craft of songwriting. And the songs he wrote sound just as timeless as the traditionals he chose. Themes of death, higher powers, and old-school blue-collarism run rampant (as we would expect), and although Graffin’s a novice in releasing folk music, his interpretations of the genre sound authentic. His baritone voice trembles when it needs to, and it’s impassioned at other times. The result is an album that sounds genuine in its rustic feel. In other words, Cold as the Clay does much more than pay homage to yesteryear.
Label (with streaming audio): http://www.epitaph.com/