Graham Lindsey is nothing if not gutsy. A Wisconsin native, he played in punk bands before he could drive, left home at 14, and has lived in bare abodes and basements in New Orleans, Brooklyn and rural Nebraska. But all that’s nothing compared to the crazy courage he shows on an album that ends with him rasping these words: “I am useless to the wild earth/So sings the bowels of every place/I used to map the laughter/Though I could never find its face/And anywhere that I may go/My judgment roars its restless bells/I never knew and shall never know/A worse place than myself.”
Famous Anonymous Wilderness offers eleven stark folk songs and sweet country waltzes. Made mostly of Lindsey’s scuffed throat and simply strummed acoustic, plus the occasional tangy harmonica and the honey glaze of glass slides on steel strings, they sound disarmingly modest, but Lindsey’s words weave a vision that’s anything else. In a voice that spits, sneers, howls and hopes, he lays bare beauty and ugliness, rails at his failings, and offers up his heart. Like Dylan, Cohen, Kerouac and Townes, Lindsey’s relentlessly percussive, consonant verses are calculated and writerly, but they come out in a gush, the better to capture the frantic tangle of his fears and desires.
Most folks wouldn’t dare aspire to such company, much less aim for it their first time out. But with this disc, the most audacious roots songwriter’s debut since Gillian Welch’s Revival, Graham Lindsey — a less-than-nobody and just 25 — goes one better. He actually attains it.