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The Tallest Man On Earth

Okay, so maybe it’s impossible to use the words `Bob’ or `Dylan’ to describe Sweden’s The TALLEST MAN ON EARTH’s oeuvre given his bare acoustic rattle and nasal-ish delivery but Kristian Matsson should take such comparisons as a compliment. For despite the rather unwieldy (and clearly untrue) stage name for the singer-songwriter, he has, over his relatively short career, collated a creditable cache of songs, ballads and “tall” tales.
His is American folklore told through the prism of a Scandinavian upbringing, having been born 30th April 1983, Leksand in Dalarna. A self-titled EP in 2006 hinted at The TMOE’s skills but the richness of storytelling and imagery in his debut SHALLOW GRAVE (2008) {*7} was considerable, creating a vivid picture of the man alone with a gnarly guitar, conjuring up scene after scene.
The most accurate analysis of Matsson’s work however came as part of a press review of his second album THE WILD HUNT (2010) {*8} which considered that Matsson interpreted DYLAN like Dylan interpreted GUTHRIE – Woody, that is. And it’s true, the early 1900s of Woody’s great American land was reshaped and reconsidered for DYLAN’s 1960s which was in turn transposed to the lush green loneliness of the Swedish countryside by Matsson. The album itself is a spare as its predecessor but enjoys more confident playing, deft lyricism – more about emotion than narrative but no less engaging – and adding splashes of piano and banjo to the spidery acoustic; his one-that-got-away single `King Of Spain’ was given deserved re-boot via Jools Holland’s Late Night BBC2 programme.
Proving his way with titles again, an EP `Sometimes The Blues Is Just A Passing Bird’, arrived in 2010 as Matsson continued on a singular journey that so far has proved more surprisingly fruitful. Cut at his home, a home he shared with then-wife Amanda Bergman (aka IDIOT WIND), THERE’S NO LEAVING NOW {*8} had The TALLEST MAN ON EARTH high on a list of folk acts to break America (Top 40). Described as a meld of DYLAN, RICHARD ASHCROFT and, at a push, James Walsh (STARSAILOR), Kristian drew on all raspy tones to deliver several simple twists of fate: `Revelation Blues’, `Bright Lanterns’, `1904’ and the title track.
A subsequent death in the family, a break-up/divorce with Amanda, and other things that played deeply in his psyche, Kristian’s fourth album DARK BIRD IS HOME (2015) {*7} was understandably lonesome, but also footloose. Soul-searching and introspective, the TMOE tried in vain to lift himself above the pulpit of life and, in bright ballads such as `Darkest Of The Dream’, `Sagres’ and `Seventeen’, he somehow succeeds. But knowing what he might have went through, his heartbreak is felt in `Fields Of Our Home’, the title track and the PAUL SIMON-esque `Little Nowhere Towns’.
As part of a subsequent EP series, both his eponymous download with New York chamber ensemble, `…yMusic’ (2017) and `When The Bird Sees The Solid Ground’ (2018) were somewhat underplayed in Matsson’s quest for total independence. The possibility of releasing the 5-track items as a full-set in the future were slim, though once again comparisons to DYLAN-via-JOHN DENVER were rife on `There’s No Leaving Now’, `Revelation Blues’, `An Ocean’ and `Somewhere In The Mountains, Somewhere In New York’.
Consigned to dispatching his next album by way of the download medium (at least initially), The TALLEST MAN ON EARTH unjustly lost sales of I LOVE YOU. IT’S A FEVER DREAM (2019) {*8} somewhere down the line. Still seemingly lovelorn and lost in a swathe of romanticism, Matsson channelled his tunes via a 60s DYLAN, a 70s JACKSON BROWNE or an 80s DON HENLEY (at a push). His nearest modern-day rivals JAKE BUGG and PASSENGER were finding a niche market in the singer-songwriter circle, however, Matsson’s semi-classics such as `I’m A Stranger Now’, `The Running Styles Of New York’, `There’s A Girl’, `My Dear’ and `What I’ve Been Kicking Around’, struggled to bring him big returns.
© MC Strong 2011/GFD2-MR // rev-up MCS May2015-Jun2019

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