Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Tallest Man On Earth - Love Is All

The Tallest Man on Earth is Kristian Matsson. In reality Kristian is only five foot seven, which is actually rather short of an adult male, so I do not know why he elected to have the stage name “Tallest Man on Earth” for his folk music career. Presumably the name was chosen for reasons other than actual height but I do not know these reasons.

One day whilst engaging in the wonderful world of listening to random recommended songs on, something I recommend to everyone, I was led to the song “Love Is All,” by The Tallest Man on Earth. This would be my first and favorite exposure to the band. Nothing I have heard since by Kristian have I enjoyed anywhere near as much as “Love Is All.” I would concede that every song I have heard under the banner of The Tallest Man on Earth has been nice and mellow and rather enjoyable, but nothing hooked me quite like the peaceful licks and dramatic pauses of “Love Is All.” It is a very charming song, one of my favorite modern folk songs I have heard in a long time.

At 5'7 Kristian Matsson is not in fact
the tallest man on earth.
Trained in classical guitar, which is surprisingly rare these days, Kristen developed the necessary skills to perfectly create a folk guitar playing style that was reminiscent of his heroes, as well as unique to himself, as well as true to classical form. Tallest Man on Earth is often compared to the likes of Bob Dylan which is fair when comparing theme but you can also clearly hear the stylization of simultaneous picking for both melody and rhythm. A style I have always loved is the picking of individual notes, the much more common approach to song creation, especially for rhythm guitar is to rely on chords, and in a lot of pop rock and punk rock they sometimes, in my opinion, rely too heavily on bar chords, usually the only time individual notes are invoked is during guitar solos and that is a shame, because the best guitar playing, and definitely the most unique kinds of sound a guitar can produce come from individual picking.

At some point in his youth Kristian grew tired of playing guitar, it felt mechanical to him, which is impressive that he got so knowledgeable and skilled at player he could feel that way about it. It was not until he discovered the idea of playing in various tunings that allowed him to use “open tunings” that his passion for guitar playing returned to him. Open tuning is a method of tuning the guitar so a primary chord can be strummed without any frets pressed which allows the player the freedom to manipulate the sound in a grand variety of ways. This explains the strumming Kristian plays while picking out the individual notes. This style is lovely and I really enjoy listening to it and as a man who unsuccessful learned to play Mason Williams “Classical Gas” and Bach’s “Air for G String” on guitar, I can assure you the best guitarist either are classical guitar players or rock stars who can play in a classical style if they so choose, so long story short, I always have a soft spot for songs like “Love Is All.”

The other advantage Kristian found with open tuning is that it allowed him to focus a little more on his singing while playing, which I suppose is what created The Tallest Man on Earth project. Sometimes it is not the talent of a singer that wows us, sometimes it is the passion of their voice. Kristian is a solid singer but he is really good at putting a lot of heart into his vocals and his lyrics are strange poetry. The song “Love Is All” may or may not actually propose the idea that everything we do is love. There is wonderful water imagery, walking over the river like it’s easier than land, throwing evil into the current, and this mighty river is both our savior and our sin. Neat stuff, also a house made of spider webs? A lot of really strong stuff is being thrown at the listener and I really like it because it stirs my imagination in a variety of directions. Everything is top notch but the finally icing on the cake is the way Kristian wails through the chorus.

“Oh, I said I could rise,
From the harness of our goals.
Here come the tears,
But like always, I let them go.
Just let them go.”

Really emotional stuff coming from the Swede, and I think that may be the reason I enjoy a song like “Love Is All” so much more than his other songs. The wailing in his voice invokes sadness and a joy at the same time, which is interesting, it may sound strange but I suspect a lot of people’s favorite emotion is being happy and sad at the same time and I feel that is exactly what I hear in Kristian’s voice every time he sings this chorus.

I do not exactly listen to a lot of modern folk music but the fine guitar work and emotional vocals in a song like “Love Is All” is the sort of song I always feel partial towards. I will have to dig deeper into The Tallest Man on Earth’s repertoire surely there are other gems waiting to be discovered.

- King of Braves

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