Number 7: The Tallest Man On Earth – “The Wild Hunt”

They say imitation is the highest form of flattery.

If that’s true, then there are a lot of guitar-toting folk artists who really, really, reaaaaaally like Bob Dylan. As they should. Long before the man became a parody of himself, he offered a voice to a generation that seemed to swaying on a precipice to a complete cultural apocalypse.

As my roommate pointed out to me earlier tonight, the thing that most distinctly separates The Tallest Man On Earth (nee: Kristian Matsson) from the legion is that he is so obviously influenced by Dylan, but does so without being an exact facsimile. And that’s harder than it sounds.

“The Wild Hunt” (which is a popular myth in Northern European cultures — thanks Wikipiedia!) is the eponymous opening track to TMOE’s 2010 album, a fine followup to his even more fine 2008 release. And there’s no way for me to describe it other than to say it was impossible for me not to love it the first time I heard it.

There are two things that impress me most about The Tallest Man On Earth. First, is his gift for melody. It’s the only thing that really distinguishes folk singers from one another because, it’s really all they’ve got. It’s a genre that lends itself to homogeny because of its simple arrangements and song structure. TMOE’s songs have a distinct nuance, motion and verve that others lack. It’s as simple as that.

Second is Masston’s guitar playing: impressively technical and creative without being ostentatious.

Both are featured in full form on “The Wild Hunt,” which eschews the dexterous finger-picking of the first album in favor of strumming, allowing Matsson to more prominently and confidently feature his vocals. And there’s not much more to this track, which is just fine with me.

In a world full of complexity, “The Wild Hunt” lyrically offers a view of life in its barest parts, an austerity supported by the neo-folk instrumentation. Life, death, the changing of the seasons. I find this track incredibly centering and uplifting, helping bring a simple but powerful clarity to the noisy routines that keep me from really noticing how life passes me by. One of the best new folk tunes I’ve heard in awhile.

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