The Paradiso upstairs room was sold out for a performance by The Tallest Man On Earth last Tuesday. The album “Shallow Grave” was one of my favorites of last year but and I was looking forward to seeing the artist perform the songs of the album live. For me it was the first time, but it turned out that half of the room had seem him play on the Lowlands festival earlier this year.
“Shallow Grave” is a remarkable album. When you listen to it you expect some very tall guy in a lumberjack uniform who lives in a wooden cabin somewhere in the mountains in the southern part of the US, surrounded by animals and trees writing songs about the things around him. With a voice that’s shaky but authentic with hints of Bob Dylan and a similar guitar playing style: all acoustic. I would not have been surprised if he was Will Oldham’s next door neighbor. But he’s not from the south, in fact he’s not even from the U.S. but from Sweden and his name is Kristian Matsson.
Most Swedish bands, however good they are, will always have a pop sound to their music. Even the punk and metal bands have this, and it’s probably because there’s not really that much wrong in one of the most livable countries on the planet. Trying to sing some sort of blues requires urgency, knowing why the song has to be sung. TMOE circumvents all of this by showing he has a good grasp of the same artists Dylan and other folkies listened to. Not for one moment do you know you’re listening to a Scandinavian. Prowling around stage during the instrumental bits he shows off great song after great song. It’s rare for a solo act to have a good stage show but he has. Running around, looking intensely into the audience he knows how to bring the songs. His command of English is also worth mentioning because where many Swedish bands can’t get over the accent (mostly the s’s) he sounds American, and also in his songs.
Matsson deserves more appreciation for his very authentic sounding music and hopefully next time, as someone in the audience said, he will be downstairs.