I would like to introduce you to Kristian Matsson (aka The Tallest Man on Earth), an undeniably talented folk singer and my latest musical obsession. His new album "The Wild Hunt" has been the only thing coming from my speakers for the past few weeks, and I just can't bear to listen to anything else. Perhaps it's his Dylan-esque knack for earnest storytelling, or maybe it's the eager crow of his voice and the nimble, energetic sound of his acoustic guitar. Despite his origins in rural Sweden, Matsson has Americana-folk down pat.
Comparisons to Dylan are unavoidable for Matsson, who shies away from discussing the subject in any detail, but alludes to the icon via a line about "boots of Spanish leather" in the triumphant "Kind of Spain" (first video below). While the early days of Bob Dylan may come to mind at first listen, Matsson is more similar to Dylan in abundance of talent than in melody or sound.
I was lucky enough to see The Tallest Man on Earth live on Tuesday night (with Nurses, a great Portland band) at the Mission Theater and I was blown away by Matsson and his guitar. His performances are raw, ragged, and tinged with both desperation and intensity. There is no need for bells, whistles, or even a drum kit. Matsson is the show. His intensity is palpable. I couldn't help but smile with amazement as he took moments to sing intently to many of us in the front row.
Although his songs sound troubled more often than not, there is an optimism in the strum of his guitar that evokes the reality of life's contrasts but leaves room for anticipation of the future. It's a rare combination, optimism and despair, but it is perhaps that contrast in itself that guides Matsson's songs right to the heart.
Must sleep now. Enjoy!