Jon Dee Graham & the Fighting Cocks

It's Not as Bad as It Looks (Freedom)

Texas Platters

Jon Dee Graham & the Fighting Cocks

It's Not as Bad as It Looks (Freedom)

Jon Dee Graham is a man of contradictions. One minute he's happy-go-lucky, the next he's in a rage, then deeply introspective. One thing for certain, his songs always sound like the truth, even when he may be lying through his teeth. It's Not as Bad as It Looks is the local mainstay's sixth studio disc and his first since a mid-2008 car crash that left him battered and minus his spleen, which perhaps explains the title. Those differing emotions are in full flourish here. He's positively joyful on "My Lucky Day," but sighs with regret on "I Will Be Happy Again." The jolly R.E.M.-like guitar jangle of "PopSong" is offset by the murky, clanging "La La (La-La-La)," where Graham almost chuckles, "How do you like me now?" That's followed by foot-stomping blues "God's Gonna Give You What You Need," his coarse vocals sounding more like Satan than anything remotely heaven-sent. It's Not as Bad as It Looks is the first album where Graham credits his band, the Fighting Cocks, and guitarist Michael Hardwick, bass player Andrew Duplantis, and drummer Joey Shuffield bring a fitting rawness to his anguish mixed with hope. Despite the contradictions, or maybe because of them, Graham has devised his most satisfying collection of songs yet.

****

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