Austin's John Dee Graham , who could have slashed power chords for the likes of the True Believers and Jon Doe forever, has instead kindled an interesting, if somewhat overlooked, solo career from the ashes of his journeyman ax-slinger days. The Great Battle (New West), his fourth solo album, finds his wistful formula largely intact—smart, confessional (at times almost therapeutic) lyrics that stop right at the precipice of sentimentality sung in a gravelly voice only a mother could love. Graham clearly cares about his song craft. Tunes like "E. 11th St." find an easygoing charm, while the title track offers some of his finest work to date. Yet he can't hide his past. Even with a celebrity producer (Charlie Sexton), BIG guitars nearly smother some arrangements. These days, it's his songs that should be doing the talking.

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