Monday, January 24, 2011

Here's what I missed... The Tallest Man On Earth

Hey, it's a new column! Here I'll be talking about the records and artists that have somehow escaped my hawk-like attention to various music pushers. This week I'll be looking at Swedish-born musician The Tallest Man on Earth (there must be something in the water in Sweden because they are churning out one great musician after another).

The Tallest Man on Earth - The Wild Hunt
The Tallest Man on Earth's Kristian Matsson and an unnamed horse. Photo by Johan Stolpe.
The Tallest Man on Earth was ready-made for me. I knew from the moment I first heard Kristian Matsson's wild, grizzled voice spout uncommonly incisive lyrical poetry that I would love this folk singer's material. His music is about as bare bones as you can get - voice and guitar, with the occasional banjo accompaniment and piano balled - but with Matsson's talent for finger-picking and natural sense of melody, it's just enough to feel that every moment of each song has purpose.

I'm a sucker for unique and interesting voices, and this is perhaps Matsson's most defining musical characteristic. When I started listening to 2010's The Wild Hunt the similarities to Bob Dylan were at first a little jarring, but after a few listens I was able to let go and appreciate Matsson's individual quirks. The lyrics are rife with strong metaphors, and it will take more than a few listens to develop your personal interpretation of the words. For example, I've had a great time trying to figure out what I think of "Love is All" from The Wild Hunt. Here's an excerpt of that song's lyrics:
Well I walk upon the river like it's easier than land
Evil's in my pocket and your strength is in my hand
Your strength is in my hand

And I'll throw you in the current that I stand upon so still
Love is all, from what I've heard, but my heart's learned to kill
Oh, mine has learned to kill
Oh, I said I could rise
From the harness of our goals
Here come the tears
But like always, I let them go
Just let them go
Is it about guilt over causing a loved-one pain? Grappling with the inability to love? A loss of faith? It's a real treat when an artist can make you dive into their words this much.

Rumour has it that The Tallest Man on Earth is one of those performers that you must see live to truly appreciate. I've decided to embed a bootlegged recording of Matsson singing "Love Is All" at Toronto's El Mocambo in April 2010. I was not there, but I really should have been.

The Tallest Man on Earth currently has two full length albums out, Shallow Grave (2008) and The Wild Hunt (2010). He's not playing anywhere near these parts any time soon, but keep your fingers crossed with me and maybe we'll get lucky.

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