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May 24, 2010 | by  | in Music | [ssba]

The Wild Hunt

Artist: The Tallest Man on Earth
Album: The Wild Hunt
Label: Dead Oceans

I love Highway 61 Revisited as much as anyone, but my favourite Dylan would have to be the pre-electric freewheeling folkster. So when I heard the first few seconds of ‘The Garden’ from The Tallest Man On Earth’s first album Shallow Grave, I assumed I’d come across a long-lost demo that had just come to light. But this man is not Mr Zimmerman at all; he’s not even American, despite that faux-southern twang in his voice. This man is from Sweden. It may seem strange at first, and even appear to be a gimmick. Some might criticise The Wild Hunt as being derivative, but they’d be missing the point. Is originality the only thing of value in music? What about a great melody, musicianship and even greater lyrics?

Kristian Mattson (birth name) clearly works hard to cut the fat off his songs. While Dylan could be a little hit-and-miss with his genius (Outrage! Criticism of Bob Dylan!), The Wild Hunt‘s songs are carefully crafted and devoid of excess. Two albums in, and he has already created two modern folk classics filled with optimism and great stories.

What is the most surprising about Mattson is that he avoids the cringeworthy cheesiness that his music could potentially succumb to. A super-serious poet singing folk songs about heartache is enough to make some feel a little ill. But Mattson also sings of the desolate countryside of his home country, the changing seasons, faces remembered, loss, drunken nights and lessons learned in such an endearing way that it’s hard to fault him for being overly earnest.

Mattson is consistently excellent in constructing short pop folk songs with clear verses, bridges and choruses. Tight and brilliant folk, The Wild Hunt is simplicity at its best. It’s a relief to know that, no matter what studio gimmicks people use in their music in the current landscape, there is still room for an approach to the singer-songwriter cliché—a man, a guitar, great tunes—that manages to accomplish the difficult task of being both refreshing and completely compelling.


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