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17 Apr 2010 18:48


Music: Saturday Mixtape: Starting points for The Tallest Man on Earth fans

  • New Dylan, shmew Dylan. It’s easy to pigeonhole The Tallest Man on Earth as a straight-up Dylan acolyte, except Swedish. But we argue there’s a lot more going on with this guy. Kristian Matsson, who’s already released two very solid, evocative folk albums, is way more exciting than, say, Jose Gonzalez. Here’s our best attempt to analyze his sound through the guise of early folk.

  • 1. Somehow, The Tallest Man on Earth feels incredibly fresh, despite being loaded with elements that suggest early Dylan or (at the very least) a guy who’s been listening to way too many field recordings. It’s to Kristian Matsson’s credit that he transcends strereotype, and his guitar has some amazing voicings which Dylan never touched.
  • 2. While most under 30 probably best know Kurt Cobain’s amazing cover of this song on MTV’s “Unplugged” in 1993, Lead Belly made the traditional tune popular, and it’s a song the ex-con is most known for today. Definite strains of this rawness in The Tallest Man on Earth’s sound.
  • 3. While Pete Seeger doesn’t always wail on his guitar the way Matsson does, on “John Henry” he’s incredibly vigorous, if maybe more lyrically direct than Matsson ever gets. Seeger’s clean, authoritative voice definitely strikes a different tone from Matsson, but we’d argue they have more in common than they don’t. (Fun fact: Seeger’s still kicking at 90.)
  • 4. Phil Ochs, a protest singer to the end, was a raw and evocative performer and a key voice in the protest music scene during the mid-’60s, and probably the guitarist who Matsson most reminds us of. Both Ochs and Matsson powerfully wail away at their guitars, even if their endgames (political change vs. metaphor) are completely different.
  • 5. On “The Wild Hunt,” Matsson directly references Bob Dylan’s “Boots of Spanish Leather” on highlight “King of Spain.” Ultimately, the era of Dylan he takes most influence from, “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” is merely interpreted. Dylan’s lyrical voice, rich in metaphor, has a lot in common with The Tallest Man on Earth, but you always feel like “The Wild Hunt” is on the edge, ready to tip over at any time.