Graham Lindsey

Saturday, December 27; Frederick's Music Lounge

Let's dispense with the obvious: Graham Lindsey sounds a hell of a lot like a certain major dude from Minnesota. Now let's get specific: "To Ramona" may or may not be Lindsey's favorite Dylan song, but in it he found a template for an entire album of feverish, cascading, smacked-by-love-and-life-and-smacking-right-back lyrics that could be mistaken for association jive if this Wisconsin kid didn't have what that major dude also had: blinding intelligence, mordant wit, a heart as big as the Midwest. Romanticism: "You and I are a stupid symphony/Reborn and dying constantly." Politics: "I heard that somewhere something happened once but never quite occurred." Honesty: "I can't remember waking up or what my dreams were for/I am useless to the wild earth." Had someone told you Famous Anonymous Wilderness (Lindsey's 2003 debut on the Nashville indie label Catamount) was a collection of outtakes from Another Side of Bob Dylan, you'd be pissed. You'd want to know why songs this good didn't make the final cut.

Still, do we need another new Dylan, especially given that the old one isn't about to give quarter? We do, if only to remind ourselves that bland-outs like John Mayer or diarist divas like Ani DiFranco aren't all singer/songwriters are good for these days. Listening to Lindsey's hieratic whirlwind of images and rhymes, you remember that just a voice, a guitar and some harmonica can reveal, stun and rivet you to a musical vision. With an anger and urgency transposed, perhaps, from an earlier life as a punk rocker, Lindsey isn't a traditionalist. His best songs have a dire energy, an emotional and verbal volatility that feels more than a little dangerous -- delivered in his spindly, Midwestern drawl, they'll tear holes in the air around you.

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