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Monday, May 11, 2015

home of the americana diaspora
May 9, 2015
Scott Foley

Couple posts ago, I burbled on in praise of a song that has the ability to change lives - at least mine.  From Tallest Man On Earth, "Sagres" swept my feet out from under me.  The very first time I heard it I happened to be spinning it on one of my Mix shows, basically just airing it unheard while chatting with another programmer.  My second time through "Sagres" happened later that same day.  On my ride home, I realized the relative error of my ways, that I had inadvertently broadcast the profane line that so fittingly pulled so much together for me:

It's just all this fucking doubt  

Granted, that's just one line from a lifechanging song, and one haunting song from an album that pairs perfectly with last year's Lateness of Dancers by Hiss Golden Messenger.  Both Lateness and Tallest Man's Dark Bird Is Home trade in what might carelessly be termed indie folk, created by artists who perform under aliases much larger than their given monikers.  

When the lo-fi guitar 'n voice recordings of Sweden's Kristian Matsson first reached the radar of bloggers, he was damned with a Dylan comparison.  Like most other Dylan sightings, this one was off target, focused superficially on Matsson's slightly nasal delivery and his rambling lyrical tendencies.  The sound of Tallest Man on Earth has grown over the ensuing decade, coming to incorporate a more diverse range of instrumentation and production, though still focused on Matsson's lo-fi vocals and poetically restless lyrics.  Early reports declared Dark Bird more of a full band record, and the first glimpse of "Sagres" confirmed those suspicions.  "Darkness of the Dream" gallops along like Springsteen for all the song's romantic yearning.  With a few exceptions, songs are built on a strummed or fingerpicked acoustic guitar.  Even the quieter, more pared back pieces such as "Singers" and "Fields of Home" are shaded with tape echoes and effects, grainy horns or the cloudy piano of "Little Nowhere Towns". 

Despite his increasingly crowded studio, Dark Bird remains quite a personal collection.  Matsson has intimated that parts of the record address his recent divorce, "what lead up to that and what happens after".  Beneath the production and the rapidfire delivery, Matsson's lyrics aren't always easy to discern (early, unofficial efforts on lyrics sites have been downright puzzling). When the clouds part for a line or two, the glimpses can be revelatory.  There are seemingly confessional moments such as "Little Nowhere Towns", as well as a couple genuinely optimistic passages.  The album closes on one of the latter times:  "Suddenly the day gets you down / but this is not the end / no, this is fine". 

*  Charlie Parr, "Remember Me If I Forget"  Stumpjumper  (Red House, 15)
*  Porter, "Harder Stuff"  This Red Mountain  (Porter, 15)
*  Amy Black, "Bring It On Home"  Muscle Shoals Sessions  (Reuben Records, 15)
*  Hillstomp, "Cardiac Arrest In D"  Darker the Night  (In Music We Trust, 10)
*  Alabama Shakes, "Miss You"  Sound & Color  (ATO, 15)
*  Ray Wylie Hubbard, "Stone Blind Horses"  Ruffian's Misfortune  (Bordello, 15)
*  Kristin Diable, "I'll Make Time For You"  Create Your Own Mythology  (Speakeasy, 15)
*  Lucinda Williams, "Pyramid of Tears"  Por Vida: Tribute To the Songs of Alejandro Escovedo  (Or Music, 04)
*  Jason Isbell, "24 Frames"  Something More Than Free  (Southeastern, 15)  D
*  Jayhawks, "Ain't No End (live)"  Live At the Belly Up  (Belly Up, 15)
*  Calexico, "Follow the River"  Edge of the Sun  (Anti, 15)
*  Shinyribs, "Dead Batteries"  Okra Candy  (Mustard Lid, 15)
*  Allison Moorer, "Storms Never Last"  Lonesome On'ry & Mean  (Dualtone, 03)
*  Whitey Morgan & the 78s, "Good Timin' Man"  Sonic Ranch  (Whitey Morgan, 15)
*  Jimmy LaFave, "Never Came Back To Memphis"  Night Tribe  (Music Road, 15)
*  Will Hoge, "They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To"  Small Town Dreams  (Cumberland, 15)
*  Dave Alvin, "Blue Wing"  King of California  (Hightone, 94)
*  Chris Stapleton, "When the Stars Come Out"  Traveller  (Mercury, 15)
*  Kenny Knight, "Carry Me Down"  Crossroads  (Paradise of Bachelors, 15)  C
*  Shelby Lynne, "Sold the Devil (Sunshine)"  I Can't Imagine  (Rounder, 15)
*  John Statz, "Queen of the Plains"  Tulsa  (John Statz, 15)  C
*  Have Gun Will Travel, "Kerosene & Candlelight"  Mergers & Acquisitions  (Suburban Home, 09)
*  Lilly Hiatt, "Somebody's Daughter"  Royal Blue  (Normaltown, 15)
*  Rhett Miller, "Lucky Star"  Traveler  (ATO, 15)
*  Giant Sand, "Man On a String"  Heartbreak Pass  (New West, 15)
*  Lonesome Wyatt & Rachel Brooke, "Miles and Miles"  Bad Omen  (Tribulation, 15)
*  Carrie Rodriguez, "Steal Your Love"  Love & Circumstance  (Ninth St Opus, 10)
*  William Elliott Whitmore, "Healing To Do"  Radium Death  (ATO, 15)

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