The Belle Jar- Union Station
Mar 5, 2014
A guy and his guitar—yeah, it’s been done before, countless times. And done amazingly, too: Dylan, Young, Joe Pug; the list is longer than “Desolation Row.”
What makes a folk artist real is his (or her) dedication to making his sound real. The best folk singer-songwriters craft their songs as living, breathing entities with pulses and emotions of their own. These songs linger on the wind, breezing past your memory days later as beautiful ghosts.
Sweden’s Kristian Matsson (known professionally as The Tallest Man on Earth) scratches his songs into the sky with nothing more than his guitar capoed on the seventh, eighth and ninth frets and his pleasantly abrasive voice. There’s no cliché harmonica here—that would make the songs sound too contrived. Instead, The Tallest Man on Earth (who stands under six feet tall, ironically), carries his human tunes with major-key arpeggios behind swift strums of hopefulness.
On “King of Spain,” Matsson longs to be the titular monarch between travelogue verses and Hemingway-like references to bullfighting, but he does it majestically. “Love is All” grips warmly despite its subject matter of a lost love and lyrics like: “Here come the tears/But like always, I let them go/Just let them go.”
Closer “Kids on the Run” might as well be Springsteen, but Matsson doesn’t try to be. He keeps everything his own as he weeps over a mourning piano melody: “And the cold sky will write us a song/But will we ever confess what we’ve done?/Guess we’re still kids on the run.”
Sure, broad American folk has been done before, and done better. But has it ever been done this well by a Swede? Give The Tallest Man on Earth a chance and he’ll give you a reason to keep listening.
Check out "King of Spain":