Magazine article Acoustic Guitar

Spreading His Wings

Magazine article Acoustic Guitar

Spreading His Wings

Article excerpt

It's been a great year for new music-even as artists have branched out of folk and embraced experimentation. First, Laura Marling plugged in for Short Movie, though more than half the album is devoted to her phenomenal acoustic playing. Then, less surprisingly, Sufjan Stevens blended fragile acoustic-guitar melodies with subtle keyboards, synths, and other electronic elements on Carrie & Lowell. And Mumford & Sons fans will be hard-pressed to find any banjo on their electrified forthcoming album Wilder Mind. Now, Americana-by-way-of-Sweden singer-songwriter Tallest Man on Earth (né Kristian Matsson) has significantly expanded his sound on his fourth album, Dark Bird Is Home.

Inspired by Bob Dylan's songwriting and Nick Drake's open tuning style, Matsson emerged in 2008 as a powerhouse performer with just an acoustic guitar, his craggy vocals, and urgent lyrics-usually about life on the road. Gradually, over the course of three albums, his music has gained more instrumentation and higher production values. His last album, 2012's There's No Leaving Now, gave a hint of what was to come with its use of multi-tracking to add woodwinds, drums, and fingerpicked baritone guitar and pedal steel to the mix.

Dark Bird Is Home opens in familiar territory, with Matsson strumming his acoustic and crooning about making his way through "sorrow wailing low," but "Fields of Our Home" takes a turn midway through as layered vocals cast a hazy spell, and synthesizers, horns, and keyboards penetrate the spare acoustic melody. …

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