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.