Review Summary: Wherever you are, this album will be all you need.
Kristian Mattson, better known as The Tallest Man on Earth, as carved a name in the music world for playing a special brand of old-time folk that seems to tap into both Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie. However, if one thing is especially notable about his style, it's that he can blend the old with the new, as performed best on 2010's The Wild Hunt. Mattson was able to mix his old-fashioned songcraft with a modern feel and production, and the result was pretty damn staggering to say the least. But now 2012's There's No Leaving Now has arrived, so can he still deliver on this promise.
The answer is easily a resounding YES. The same style is still present, yet much more refined here. You still get the one-man acoustic folk and earthy voice from the last two albums, but there seems to be a bigger emphasis on certain aspects this time around.
The first thing you'll notice is the more balanced sound. One criticism many people had regarding the first two albums was the loudness of Mattson's voice in contrast with his guitarwork, but both are mixed very well here. Along with the keyboards that back the whole thing up, everything simply sounds like it's blended together better and the production quality is crystal clear, cleaned up to perfection.
Additionally, Mattson's voice is a bit different this time around. He retains his typically natural voice, but is a bit less raspy on his delivery. The approach is a lot more subtle and focuses more on how Mattson associates with his guitar. This is better in some cases because it brings more charisma and life to some of these tracks, so all in all, having more clarity in the vocal work isn't a problem at all. Then in songs like "1904" (a highlight of the album), he keeps both vocal styles present, and it gives some variety to his music.
The last thing I'd like to mention is how full everything sounds on this album. Even with only a few instruments being played, the production is extra-vibrant and upbeat on this album, and compliments Mattson's compositions perfectly. For example, check out "Leading Me Now." The track has relatively simple layout in terms of guitarwork and composition, but the aforementioned vibrant quality the mix of the vocals and guitars exudes is nothing short of breathtaking. The addition of extra keyboards and choir voices only adds to this special atmosphere, adding an extra backdrop to aid certain tracks. This is especially prevalent on "Wind and Wails", where the background choir adds more drama and emotion to a track that's already fantastic on its own.
If there was a flaw on this album, it's that even with the refinements, there's still not much of a difference between previous works. Some of the songs still kind of run together after a while unless you're nitpicking the tiny details of each. Either way, it's clear the Mattson won't be abandoning this style for a while, and this criticism isn't really all that huge when you consider how great the album is.
"There's No Leaving Now" might not convert detractors of this artist, but if you see yourself as a fan of The Tallest Man on Earth, this is a must for you. Get it as soon as you can.