Kristian Matsson and Amanda Hollingby Matsson aka The Tallest Man On Earth and Idiot Wind aka husband and wife are the near perfect pair. Both are indie singer-songwriters from Sweden, one sounds like Bob Dylan when he plays, the other takes her stage moniker from a Bob Dylan song. But they are perhaps at their best when they collaborate in music.
It may seem like an odd juxtaposition to hear of The Tallest Man on Earth covering Frank Sinatra. After all, the Swedish musician, né Kristian Matsson, has a distinct folk-rock sound pervading his solo career. It becomes less of a surprise, however, in light of the fact that the cover is of the tune “Cycles” (which, for Sinatra, is rather folksy) and that his performance is a guest spot at an Idiot Wind show – that is, Matsson’s wife Amanda Bergman.
Despite having styled her stage name after a Dylan song, Bergman’s sound is much more imbued with piano and crooning vocals than Matsson’s, and expectations of a Sinatra cover would hardly seem off the mark.
The team-up on “Cycles” is a beautiful one, and it seems almost as though the tune was written solely for Matsson’s dreamlike strumming and for the duo’s harmonizing. It’s a down-and-out kind of song, yes, but it’s a hopeful one and an uplifting one. What’s more, the duet hits just the right balance of Matsson’s raspy folk and Bergman’s gorgeous vocals and any lyrical slip-ups toward the end serve only to add to the song’s charm. Enjoy.
Idiot Wind and The Tallest Man on Earth – Cycles (Frank Sinatra Cover)
Swedish singer/guitarist Kristian Mattsson, better known as The Tallest Man on Earth, has made a name for himself worldwide with his unique brand of jagged-edged acoustic folk. After leaving his Swedish rock band to be a folksinger, Mattsson gained a following with his powerful hoarse voice and intricate acoustic guitar work, before mostly switching to hollow-body electric guitars on his last few tours. This shift away from an acoustic sounds seems to be developing even more now, as earlier this week he appeared on Swedish game show På Spåret with a full band to cover the classic rock hit “Dancing In The Moonlight” by Irish rockers Thin Lizzy.
Few past and current artists go as well together as John Hartford and Kristian Matsson, aka The Tallest Man on Earth. Both have a classic American folk sound that ties together the stories told in the lyrics perfectly. It makes sense, then, that Matsson would decide to incorporate a cover of Hartford’s classic song “Gentle on my Mind” into his live repertoire.
Earlier today NPR posted a live set by Yellow Ostrich. They noted that though little-known, these guys are going places. Darn tootin’. Well, really, this one guy is. Alex Schaaf provides most of the direction for Yellow Ostrich, and we’re pretty sure he’s the only one playing on these covers. Sure doesn’t sound like it though.
Last year Schaaf unleashed a torrent of intimate indie-minded covers, reworking blog favorites like “Zebra” (Beach House), “King of Spain” (The Tallest Man on Earth), “’81” (Joanna Newsom), and a ton more. He’s since tacked a few more onto the list, most recently releasing a warped mostly-a cappella take on Sharon Van Etten’s “Love More.” Each tune offers moments of pure pleasure. Check out the joyful tambourine on “Androgynous” or the “ooh ah ah”s that replace “Fake Empire”’s beloved horn breakdown.
If you Google “The Tallest Man on Earth,” almost all of the top results will lead you to Kristian Matsson from Sweden. While his name might lead you to believe he has a Guinness-book-worthy-height, he’s actually a folk singer who spent the last couple years touring with Bon Iver and John Vanderslice (and is of average size).
Live at Paste Magazine, Tallest Man on Earth covers Paul Simon’s “Graceland.” Stripped down with just an acoustic guitar, Kristian carries the song with his gritty voice. Without Simon’s African influences and steel guitar, the new version holds its own with simple fingerpicking and raw vocals, no fancy third-world production needed.