Swedish folk singer Kristian Matsson must be bored to tears with being compared with early Bob Dylan, especially when in many respects he is actually better than the great man at the same stage in his career.
Ok, I know that’s a bold statement, but indulge me for a few hundred words.
Sure Dylan has better lyrics, songs and evolving style, but Matsson, who takes to the stage under the name Tallest Man on Earth is a better singer, better guitarist and has more power and emotion in his full throttle vocals than Dylan could ever muster in his early years.
Take Dylan’s infamous ‘Judas’ moment where he was barracked in the mid sixties for going electric, abandoning his folkster with acoustic guitar image and complete with drainpipe trousers, fuzzy hair and The Band entered into the world of rock.
For me Dylan needed a full band, needed the power of an electric guitar, because he couldn’t produce it on his own, and produced three of his best ever albums once he turned up the volume and started plugging in.
Matsson, on the other hand will never have a Judas moment as he already sounds like a full band. He’s already the finished article, not some whiney folk singer in need of an amp.
The power he gets from vocals and acoustic guitar alone is breathtaking and were key in making his 2008 debut Shallow Grave and this year’s follow up The Wild Hunt such stand out albums.
Wild Hunt is actually better than the debut, littered with magic moments and sumptious melodies all delivered with an intense power. There’s the driving, strumming tracks, like opener ‘Wild Hunt’ and ‘Burden of Tomorrow’ and there’s also the wonderful finger picking ones like ‘Troubles Will Be Gone’.
For me ‘Burden of Tomorrow’ is the best. There’s something about the chorus, the way his voice goes up slightly at the end, a real shiver of a song.
Another standout is ‘King of Spain’, all sorts of styles go on, baroque in places, heavily influenced by the likes of Bert Jansch, John Renbourne and Davy Graham. This guy’s folk palette and technique is far wider than Dylan’s was at that stage. All the time it’s a man on guitar, until the end when on final track ‘Kids On The Run’, he replaces it with a piano. It’s not as effective but is hardly going to garner cries of Judas from disgruntled guitar nuts.
I know many will disagree, but Mattson as a performer and musician is better than early Dylan. Will he continue to outgun the great man? Well, he’s only an EP and two albums in to a career, but in terms of early Dylan, Mattson wins by a folk mile. Will Mattson go electric? I hope not, there’s no need. Will he change styles and end up being played by Cate Blanchett in a film? Possibly, but unlikely.
by Joe Lepper, Mar 2010