Folk Music From Across the Pond … ?

Shallow Grave (Gravitation Records)
The Tallest Man on Earth

By Kory Wilcoxson

There's no way Kristian Matsson (a.k.a. The Tallest Man on Earth) is from across the pond. His songs are more at home on the dusty back roads of Alabama than in his native country of Sweden, and his evocative imagery is far more pork rinds than Swiss cheese. That Matsson's sound is so authentic is a tribute to the earnestness with which he makes his music.

Matsson's lyrics are so poetic and suggestive that they leave you scratching your head, but the words of the songs are only accessories to Matsson's mesmerizing guitar playing. The tunes are complex without being cumbersome, and Matsson plays so masterfully that it sounds as if there are several musicians at work, not just one.

His Dylan-esque voice is of the love-it-or-hate-it variety but fits well with the rough-edged desperation of songs like "The Sparrow and the Medicine." In the end, this Swede does justice to the tradition of American folk music, and Shallow Grave deserves to be counted among that genre's more substantive offerings.

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