The Tallest Man on Earth – Shallow Grave

There is something to be said about musicians creating personal, sincere, and honest music in this day and age. It’s rare to find an artist that is willing to let all his cards on table, unafraid of what you may judge him as. Often, it comes off as a fake rehashing in some long lost quest to draw fans of all likes and similar ilk but every now and then — just once in a while — an artist touches your soul with this power we call music.

Once you get to “Into the Stream” and its wonderful use of arppegiated chords and leaping note structure, you know you are in for a deep study on how such simple music can be so affecting. Such is the case with Swedish The Tallest Man on Earth’s Shallow Grave, a gifted exposé into the world of folk music. Also known as Kristian Matsson, this is nothing more than a guitarist and his poetry for all of us to rejoice in. The songs on here are sprinkled with acoustic guitar layering, warm and vivid songwriting and a Swede’s frail, niggling voice.

Moments like “Where Do My Bluebirds Fly” are brilliantly juxtaposed with tender but raw guitar picking and plucking that make you feel as if you are in the room with Matsson. You can hear every click, every rebound, and every string being affected by Matsson’s masterful playing. The songwriting is mature in that these are significant, substantial stories being shared with us and Matsson’s yelping, cracking and unusual voice create for a unique experience.

Imagine when Bob Dylan finished his third album, The Things They Are A-Changin’. This was an album that was nearly forgotten by music critics and fans alike for its almost “too simple” approach of guitar and singer-songwriter flash. With time, that album grew on people and it revealed an almost unique experience because of how well Dylan correlated everything. I’m not sure if Matsson’s debut will reach the paramount status Dylan has but if this is the path he has chosen to follow, he surely can’t go wrong.

The title track is a banjo-infused, joyous song that even comes complete with happy, chirping birds singing their heart’s away. Much like Matsson, they get louder when they want, mix it up with a high squeal here and there and almost entirely disappear. It’s not enough in just stating that this is an album that will play for your ears but will hit you right in the gut. With such earnest and real storytelling, it’s easy to realize that this is a surprisingly exceptional album.

“The Gardner” is the kind of lovely, sing-a-long, genuine storytelling that you really couldn’t help asking for. Where Matsson’s moniker of “The Tallest Man on Earth” is revealed, he sings about how he wishes he could do everything for her; to make her happy, to satisfy her, to keep her as he wishes and “to be in her eyes” again. The music is striking with heartfelt strumming that comes in loud sparkles throughout and quiet reflections when Matsson’s poignant vocals arise. It’s these kinds of songs that paint rich and robust pictures all over Shallow Grave and it’s an album that’s just chock full of them.