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Premiere: Bad Religion's Greg Graffin amps up 'Lincoln's Funeral Train'

In the run-up to Tuesday’s presidential election, veteran punk rocker Greg Graffin has had Abraham Lincoln on his mind.

So the cofounder of long-running Bad Religion enlisted some of his punk pals — current Social Distortion guitarist Jonny “Two Bags” Wickersham, bassist Brent Harding and drummer David Hidalgo Jr. — and jumped into a recording studio recently to lay down an amped-up version of Nashville songwriter Norman Blake’s “Lincoln’s Funeral Train (The Sad Journey to Springfield).”

The Times is premiering the track, which will be posted on Spotify as of Nov. 4.

Blake’s song eulogizes Lincoln’s legacy as the Great Emancipator from the perspective of those watching his funeral train depart from the nation’s capital for his burial at the Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, Ill.

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Graffin and his mates combine punk-rock drive with folk-music narrative power as he sings:

“Crowds jammed the streets for a final look at the great man who had stood at the country's helm/Through the bitter war that seemed of little good/Felled by the bullet of John Wilkes Booth as the battle died away/His guiding spirit to reconcile by absence brought dismay.”

For Graffin, it’s a merging of his socially and politically provocative work with Bad Religion and the American roots music he grew up with among family members raised in the Midwest.

“The people who introduced me to old-time music are now old-timers themselves,” Graffin said in a statement.

“My family roots go back to Indiana and Wisconsin. The Indiana folks sang a cappella in the old country chapel at my grandma’s funeral. Her children taught me to sing and the songs they chose came from the ’30s, ’40s, ’50s, and of course the folk revival tunes of the 1960s. This was the sound I brought forth to my own band starting in the 1980s. It's the only kind of lyrical style I know.”

The song is expected to be included on an album Graffin is targeting for release sometime next year.

In addition to his work as a songwriter, singer and instrumentalist with Bad Religion, Graffin has written several books on evolution and has been a lecturer at UCLA and Cornell University.

randy.lewis@latimes.com

Follow @RandyLewis2 on Twitter.com

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