Greg Graffin has always been a big influence on the way I approach things. I love punk rock, but there was always a stigma attached to those that partook in the genre. It’s true I was part of a generation that pushed the vision of the '90s slacker kid, but I would like to think it was much more than that. Punk rock can mean a lot of things, but it was the attitude that I gravitated towards. Always rooted in anti-establishment, but didn’t mean that we weren’t smart, or slackers. It meant that we took a different perspective on the world at large, and railed against what was happening. All that was seen by others was anger… and it was perceived to be unfocused anger.
But then I heard Bad Religion’s Suffer and I realized that anger can be as focused as a laser shot at those that hold all the cards… and focused anger is a powerful tool. When Graffin received his Ph.D. I wasn’t surprised -- the guy is really smart -- but what really inspired me was when I saw a bio on him with the description: "Greg Graffin: American punk rock singer, college lecturer, author, and Ph.D. from Cornell University." As if the American punk rock was so ingrained in him that it came before everything else. Even though having a Ph.D. from an Ivy League school is about one of the biggest accomplishments you can have, American punk rock was the calling card he used.
With that being said, Graffin’s solo records were not always loud and distorted. His first two records focused on pop and folk music, but that didn’t mean they weren’t punk rock. And I was super delighted when Graffin announced his newest solo record Millport. The deliberately country record was recorded with members of Social Distortion and Bad Religion, and is genuinely good. It sounds just like it should: punk rockers going country. Graffin’s nasally voice is open, honest, and more honed than normal. His goal this time around was not to have his voice heard above the dirge and saw of distorted instruments, but to add some rust to the natural twang. Album opener “Back Roads of My Mind” is a dusty toe-tapper ready for radio. “Too Many Virtues” hums along with a chorus that is hard to remove from your brain and will be there for some time after listening. “Millport” is another well-written gem and an homage to the album’s namesake, a town in need of a lift, with a resilient people. “Time of Need” is as close to a spiritual as you will get, with Graffin singing “Amen… no religion will help this time of need.” The trio of “Making Time,” “Shotgun,” and “Echo On the Hill” is driving music at its best, with “Echo On the Hill” deeply rooted in bluegrass. “Wax Wings” is a soulful mover with a beautiful fiddle solo in the middle, mandolin, and piano peppered throughout and a wonderful bookend to the record.
Graffin draws a personal, historical line from his family in the Midwest to the overall vibe of the record citing: “the people who introduced me to Old-time music are now old-timers themselves.” With Millport, and all his other musical ventures, Graffin forces you to listen to him because he has something powerful to say, without saying it too loud, focused like a laser. How punk rock is that?