I cringe whenever the critics label an up and coming musician "the next Dylan". However benevolent one's intentions may be, comparing any up and coming performer to Dylan is usually the kiss of death for the the performer. When critics play "Dylan card", it creates an impossibly high set of expectations and usually results in sort of critical backlash that can kill the career of an aspiring artist. There is only one Bob Dylan and Dylan himself has rarely lived up to the heroic expectations of his fans and followers. Over the years, "the next Dylan" has been used on preformers as P.F. Sloan, Barry McGuire, Bob Lind, Peter Mulvey & Lloyd Cole and look what it did for their careers. Dylan's earliest peers like Dave Van Ronk and Phil Ochs both played out their careers living in the shadow of Bob Dylan. Bruce Springsteen was about the only survivor of "the next Dylan" tag and as it turned out, Springsteen turned out to be something very different from Robert Zimmerman. The Tallest Man on Earth is Latest entry to the "next Dylan" sweepstakes and his abundant musical talent makes it even harder to sidestep use of the Dylan analogy.
On his second full album the Tallest Man on Earth (Swedish folk singer Kristian Mattson) is moving out from under Dylan's long shadow to craft his own body of work that stands both aside and apart from Dylan's. Dylan was and still is. capable of doing a lot with his reedy and nasal voice, and by my ear Mattson's voice has a similar expressive and passionate quality. But the Tallest Man enjoys at least full octave advantage over Mr. Zimmerman in his vocal range. Mattson's guitar playing is ragged, strident and far more self assured than Dylan even at that height of his early coffeehouse days when Dylan was absorbing the complex finger picking styles of Bleeker St. guitarists Dave Van Ronk, Rev. Gary Davis and Eric Von Schmidt. I'm not going to deny the striking similarities between Mattson and Dylan either, but I'll also remind you that Mr. Dylan was often accused of channeling Woody Guthrie for the first 4 or 5 years of his music career.
Mattson performs without a backup band and he almost seems like an anacronistic approach in the age high tech electonica, but it works in his favor because it gives his music a timeless quality. Except for the clear fidelity of the recording, there's little to suggest that these tunes weren't recorded in the American South in the early part of the last century, on the porch of some particularly contemplative backwoods poet. "Wild Hunt" is simply as good as any album I've heard in 2010 and I hope the Tallest Man on Earth survives "the next Dylan" label and keeps making great music own his own terms.
NOTABLE TRACKS: The Wild Hunt, King of Spain, Love Is All & You're Going Back