The Tallest Man on Earth: There’s No Leaving Now

The Tallest Man on Earth, There's No Leaving NowThe Tallest Man on Earth, There’s No Leaving Now
Or as I would have preferred to call it: Our Generation’s Dylan goes all Newport Folk riot on us.
Ya’ll know the fables about Kristian Matsson by now; the man was not born, but merely walked in one day out of the cold looking like a hobo, with a beat old six string strapped to his back by a discarded piece of nylon cord. We paid no mind, merely chatted and conversed conspiring in our little worlds while he stood humbly in a corner and began to play. The sound that erupted from that hollowed box, from his meager frame silenced the prattle of petty conversations and muted those musicians whom could be called comparable that came before.
There was much celebration, first with the release of Shallow Grave and especially later with The Wild Hunt, which garnered fortuitous critical praise along with some modest commercial success. And rightfully so, The Tallest Man on Earth possesses possibly the most deft right hand since Earl Scruggs, God rest his soul. He used this skill picking and interweaving melodies to animate themes just as striking and brutally sincere as the cackled dissonance of his voice.
In short, The Tallest Man on Earth wasn’t so much another musician as a natural phenomenon. Yes, since everyone is so quick to jump on the Dylan references, there is something comparable to be found there. A Napoleonic figure appears from a mythical nor’country to turn the music scene on its head using only six strings, an enormity of style, and a voice off pitch. 
It was a very lovely thing to discover Mr. Matsson, like an unexpected romance or sudden windfall. His lyrics were sublimely obscure and his delivery was as stark as a Swedish winter. So I couldn’t have been more excited with the announcement of a new release, There’s No Leaving Now, and neither could I be more disappointed, when with shaking hands I ripped the wrapping from the recording and placed the vinyl onto the turntable.
Perhaps it was the anticipation that ruined this record for me, or perhaps The Tallest Man on Earth is beginning to slouch somewhat due to the weight of his success. One cannot expect ever greater accomplishments indefinitely, especially not with a medium as fickle and subject to exterior demands as music. Then again, one can neither expect an artist to try and recreate past brilliance. It’s my opinion Mr. Matsson got caught between these two poles with There’s No Leaving Now.
The first track “To Just Grow Away,” sets a high bar for the record. One immediately senses the Tallest Man’s ambition with No Leaving. It’s striking and exciting to hear the addition of backing instruments, and though upbeat the number is still reminiscent of the emotional strain and opaque metalyrical sustenance fans have come to love from his previous recordings.
With interest piqued and excitement slaked the following track, “Revelation Blues” stumbles. And then again the next track “Leading Me Now,” elicits frustration. By “1904,” one may begin to wonder if the album is even worth the attention.
At this point I would like to say something like, “despite the disappointingly narrow vision of the first half of No Leaving, side two redeems the audience from doubt,” but this would be untrue. There’s No Leaving Now lacks even one really strong track, which stands in glaring contrast to his previous albums which, short as they are, (typical playing time runs just over half an hour) contained a half dozen stunning, unique offers. While the second half is by far stronger, it doesn’t quite capture Mr. Matsson’s essence and abilities as glimpsed at their peak.
It is very easy to be a critic–I don’t deal with endless touring, industry doublespeak, or the constraints of deadlines, focus groups or company expectations–so I should not assess blame, and I cannot speak of this album poorly. If I had never heard The Tallest Man on Earth’s previous material I would say this is a fine record. But I have and with this in mind I can only think, for whatever reason, he could have done better.
Rating: 5.0/10
MP3: The Tallest Man on Earth “To Just Grow Away”
Buy: iTunes or Insound! vinyl