Standing tall

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Much ado (and many measurements) have been made over Swedish singer-songwriter Kristian Matsson’s stage name, The Tallest Man On Earth. The actual tallest living person on the planet (since Sept. ‘09, according to Guinness World Records) is eight foot three inch Sultan Kösen in Turkey. Interestingly, both he and five foot seven inch (according to wikianswers.com) Matsson are both 29 years old.

There is where the comparisons likely end. But, while Matsson’s moniker is meant ironically, there’s plenty to be said about the height of anticipation and expectation surrounding bigger-than-life album There’s No Leaving Now, just released last month. There are the undeniable parallels to certain American folk heroes from the ‘60s (hint: Dylan), there’s the passion behind Matsson’s voice juxtaposed against the rhythmic strumming of guitars both jangly and warm. Strings are layered but so are affects, bringing what could be a throwback sound squarely into the present.

Live, Matsson and an acoustic guitar have the capacity to fill a stage — a charisma shared by only a few performers. But the Swede (who sings in unaccented English, his voice charmingly hoarse) comes at his craft with equal parts troubadour swagger and unadulterated joy.

Press for the new record says, “The songwriting is every bit as detailed and captivating as his previous work, but this time around, Matsson is showing a few more cards. The music of the Tallest Man on Earth has traditionally centered around the power of performance and has served as a reminder that directness is the best course of action. However, as Matsson adds layers of arrangement to these songs they reveal a sense of character not previously featured in past recordings.”

Listen to “1904” here:

The Tallest Man On earth plays The Orange Peel on Tuesday, July 24. Strand Of Oaks opens. Showtime is 9 p.m., tickets are $16 in advance or $18 day of show. He also performs on syndicated radio show eTown this Sunday at 6 p.m. Listen or stream it at WNCW-FM 88.7 FM.

Watch a video performance of “King of Spain” from Later with Jools Holand:

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About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts writer and editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs.

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