The new big voice from the woods of Wisconsin. And he's kicking ass and taking names. This seething post-punkadour is not screwing around.
"Emma Rumble" is a dynamite murder ballad, and perhaps the clearest reason why you'll hear some comparisons made to the material of Gillian Welch. But for me it's only here that it really occurs, both artists just happen to treat that revered subject impeccably.
Because our man from Madison is a whole lot angrier, and vociferating all the way. He even hoarsens on "I Won't Let You Down," one of several painfully beautiful love songs. He's come to his current acoustic (and, inevitably, Dylanesque) framework via bands of his generation that played metal and hard core emo, I hear that. Though he wrote much of this record in Nebraska in '98, it did not get tracked in Santa Monica until 2001. (He'd left Nebraska for a Brooklyn stint in between, and went back to his native WI after this record was done.)
Producer Steve Deutsch (Linda Thompson, Lisa Loeb, Van Dyke Parks) gets an amazingly great sound and texture out of Graham's guitar, love to know the mic and signal chain there. To Lindsey's credit, he's got a beautiful right hand, and also injects a few surprising chords for the genre when least expected. (Actually, I never expect them in this genre.)
But it's all about the man's lyrics, the stuff of young genius, without question. Take, for instance, the end of "Song to New York," with which the record ends:
I am useless
to the wild earth
It's extremely hardcore 60s folk, and classic alternative country. A pie in the face with a barbed wire crust to practitioners of the 70s influenced singer songwriter fare. Would you expect less from a poet who was in his first punk band at 12? Not exactly my idea of a good time, but we think he's really great. Be absolutely sure to check the clips on the Listen page, you may make your find of the year. FG