All too often the folk genre is let down by one man and his guitar. He may have stories to tell and he may do so well, but without a voice these artists soon flounder in a sea of indifference. Sweden's Kristian Matsson is luckily in possession of a fine pair of familiar lungs. His cadent, nasal rasp is without doubt indebted to, but not owned by, one Bob Dylan and alongside his own minimal, yet irrepressibly optimistic accompaniment, Matsson is unquestionably the star of the show.
He deftly filters a little country into both his toe-tapping folk and vocal delivery, creating a very welcome ride down Highway 61, The Cave Singers to the left, The Strange Boys to the right (no jokers in sight). And he's equally happy in more traditional folk, the bobbing chord progressions and melody of "Love Is All" are as old as the hills and close to the pastoral flutters Nick Drake perfected.
The surging strumming of "You're Going Back" and the infectious beauty of "Burden of Tomorrow" are prime examples of warm, interesting, heartfelt folk. The summery, emotive finger-plucking of "Troubles Will Be Gone" pairs Matsson's crackling voice perfectly.
The impeccable ode "King Of Spain", which out of context could be viewed as too cavalier and deeply mired in folkloric wandering, finds a very happy home within The Wild Hunt environment. Smile-inducingly theatrical, and imbued with a deep determination essential to the genre it concedes only to "A Lion's Heart". Achingly pretty and full of soaring emotion backed with impeccable, intricate fingerwork, it's as honest as the magnificent work Danny & The Champions of The World has recently produced. Both rightly demand an appreciation of the gentle lyricism and high-calibre musicianship on offer.
In 2008, Matsson's debut deservedly met with much acclaim. Its power was its weakness, simple done well. The Wild Hunt continues this legacy, full of optimistic, unforgettable songs. Now, about that stage name ...