On May 27, 1963 Bob Dylan released his second studio LP, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, to much critical acclaim. Opening track “Blowin’ In The Wind” would go on to become the hippie national anthem and the most influential protest song ever written. Freewheelin’ spawned four other singles, and was eventually chosen as one of fifty albums to be added to the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry.
Since Freewheelin’s release countless artists have attempted to copy what made it so wonderful, but few have succeeded. Kristian Matson aka The Tallest Man On Earth’s sophomore LP The Wild Hunt is one of the few that does. Everything about Kristian, from his voice to his guitar playing, to the way he crams multiple syllable words into single breaths without making it sound awkward, evokes pre-Bringing It All Back Home Bob Dylan. All that’s missing is the harmonica.
The reason The Wild Hunt succeeds at evoking the spirit of Freewheelin’ is that instead of trying to invent or copy a style of playing, Kristian attempts to be as timeless as possible. The Wild Hunt is a record you can imagine listening to in the sixties or even earlier, back when the acoustic guitar was first invented. It’s a record that transcends time itself. This makes The Wild Hunt both modern and hopelessly dated. It’s a contradiction that sounds silly on paper but makes perfect sense when you listen to it.
Folk music is to the white man what rap is to the black man. It doesn’t matter how sloppy the instrumentals or vocals are or how low quality the recording is, the only thing that matters are the lyrics. And although The Wild Hunt has wonderful aesthetics, once you start paying attention to the lyrics it’s quite a let down.
Kristian is a multi-instrumentalist. If you listen closely to title track “The Wild Hunt” you’ll hear Matson’s banjo skills in the background. It’s a nice touch that adds an unprecedentedly deep layer to an otherwise simplistic album. The highlight of The Wild Hunt and The Tallest Man On Earth’s entire discography is album closer “Kids On The Run”, a touching piano ballad. “Kids On The Run” is a powerful song about youth and love, and the folk piano helps lightly cement The Wild Hunt as a product of 2010. It’s a song that would make Bob Dylan proud, and works so well because unlike his other work, it feels uniquely Kristian. It’s his most personal track to date. Kristian lets down the veil a little when he sings “No we have never grown a day from the poison we shared/and we’re walking our crooked backs home/But will we ever confess what we’ve done?/Guess we’re still kids on the run”.
Despite it’s flaws The Wild Hunt is a great album and came extremely close to making my Top 10 Albums of 2010 list, securing the eleventh spot. While The Wild Hunt doesn’t benefit from deep scrutiny, this is the perfect album to listen to while driving down a country road, sharing a joint with a friend, or cuddling with a loved one. It’s excellent aesthetic qualities add a wonderful rustic atmosphere to nearly any situation, earning it a three out of four.