Friday, June 4, 2010

Where have all the good balladeers gone?

Sweden. It’s that simple. I’ve mentioned my sometimes unhealthy infatuation/affair with the Swedes and I won’t dissect that any further here, but I will tell you about a somewhat recent import from that cold country - The Tallest Man on Earth, aka Kristian Matsson, a one-man folk act influenced heavily by American folk, Americana in general and especially pre-electric Dylan.

This is a good thing. A very good thing. It’s not that he’s picked up where Uncle Bob left off, but simply acts as if the Thin Wild Mercury Sound never actually happened and all we have is Dylan between 1962 and 1964. Well, that’s not entirely true, but in many cases this is Matsson’s blueprint, ‘cos the nod is obvious and the results are fantastic. TMoE’s imagery is deep and his vision broad. He paints pictures with words using a voice that is plaintive, primitive and 100% plausible. Never has a single man and a guitar sounded more vibrant or exciting, with the power of a dozen musicians and ten thousand watts at his fingertips. And yet within a moment he can become as whisper-delicate as a morning flower.

Anyone into folk music should already know what I’m talking about. Anyone halfway interested should check it out. Anyone who’s not a fan will become converted…or at least as far as these two albums and one e.p. will take you.

Check out this NPR showcase. The camerawork is a bit wonky, but the sound is perfect.

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