The Tallest Man on Earth – There’s No Leaving Now

Rating: ★★★★☆

It seems like Kristian Mattson is on a roll, musically speaking.  His music has progressed through his first two albums, and he continues his own tradition with his latest release as The Tallest Man on Earth, There’s No Leaving Now.  At this point in his career, his voice and musical stylings have become familiar, making the work on this album more personal.

Upon listening to the first track, “To Just Grow Away,” I noticed that his guitar playing has changed a little bit; there’s an intricacy to the picking of the strings, rather than the heavier handed strumming of earlier efforts. Surprisingly, there’s also a softness to his distinctive Dylan-esque drawl…it all points to bright things on There’s No Leaving Now. You’ll find more changes as you move into “Revelation Blues,” though I’ll admit they’re a bit more subtle.  The musical accompaniment, which has always remained sparse, if even present, is much more noticeable this go round, such as the rolling drum in the background on this track.  Personally, I think it helps fight off naysayers who would say he’s not really progressing; clearly, he’s adding slight touches to change his game.

I think that The Tallest Man on Earth definitely has softened a bit.  Kristian always had just a hint of that off-pitch delivery, but he’s warmed the edges of his vocal instrument on this effort.  “1904,” one of the standout tracks, features a chorus where he goes after higher notes than I’ve seen him go after before–and he succeeds in that for the most part.  In doing so, he crafts one of the more emotional moments on the record, and you’ll keep coming back to the track due to his efforts. Later on in There’s No Leaving Now he warms you again with “Little Brother;” it’s just his vocals and guitar for the most part.  But, aside from a polish to the voice, you begin to notice that Mattson’s grown as a lyricist to boot.

Despite the fact that Kristian’s denied sharing any allegiance to the folk tradition, he definitely has begun to take on a more emotional everyman approach with his lyrics. His stories seem rooted in personal experience, like on “There’s No Leaving Now,” but you can also see that such songs could be applied to your own life by stepping into Mattson’s shoes.  They’re songs about love, about the trials and tribulations of life, but his usage of “you” often makes you wonder if he’s talking directly to you–this is perhaps what’s made Mattson so endearing.

I think the best thing that stands out on There’s No Leaving Now is that there’s a lot of variance in the songwriting this go round.  Sure, there’s your traditional guitar and voice, but there’s also songs featuring some nice backing arrangements and even piano bits.  It’s definitely still The Tallest Man on Earth, but it shows that Mattson’s willing to try new territory, or new twists; this is the sort of thing that makes us appreciate his work, not to mention the fact that it keeps us coming back again and again.  As long as Kristian writes music this good, we’ll all be here for a long time, adoring everything he puts out.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/The_Tallest_Man_on_Earth_-_1904.mp3]

Download: The Tallest Man on Earth – 1904 [MP3]