After several promptings by Marissa- who knows my musical soul better than I do- I gave The Tallest Man On Earth a four hour listen. Surrounded by darkness and laying loose like a corpse, I let the acoustics of his four studio albums wash over my self-imposed solitude, necessary for affecting emotion. The “less is more” minimalism of Kristian Mattson’s songwriting rang heavy through each song, specifically when the last hour struck with his latest release- Dark Bird Is Home.
What resonates so deeply with The Tallest Man On Earth is his homage to true folk form. After critics and publicists compare so many acoustic types to the early days of Dylan, it becomes easy to dismiss the resemblance. But as Dylan did when he trucked roadside America from small-town Duluth to dimly lit Greenwich Village Cafes, Mattson studied the origins of folk- preserving the elements of rhythm and rhyme that cemented legends like Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger. His voice never falters below the line of desperation, nor does it steep itself in blackened bitterness or scape-goat disillusion.
Though deeply personal, Dark Bird Is Home carries with it a similar “dust-bowl ballad” detachment- his songwriting rising above purgative emotion to a place of surrendered acceptance. “And when there’s no one on the bottom/You got there alone/Kicking up some dust to see/Where a wind could blow,” Mattson sings on the album’s title track. He epitomizes the sentiment that systematically bubbles through the record- the acceptance and responsibility that finds us in our truest moments of navigating the world alone, impervious to generational changes and transient relationships.
The Tallest Man On Earth will be playing at The Ryman tomorrow, 5/27.