Archive for the ‘Daughter of Swords’ Category

[ATTENDED: March 12, 2022] Daughter of Swords

I first heard The Tallest Man on Earth back in 2014.  I had a ticket to see him play Union Transfer in November 2018.  But I had to skip that show because of a Scout hike that I was asked to go on.

I promised myself I’d see him the next time he came to town.  That was October 2019.  But at the least minute he had to cancel the tour because of personal problems back home in Sweden.

He rescheduled the show for 2020.  The show was on my birthday, and I like to spend the day with my family.  I bought at ticket anyway, just to see how the day went.  And then Covid struck.

He rescheduled the show for March of 2021, but that had to get pushed back as well.

And here it is, March of 2022, four and a half years after the initial date, and I finally got to see him.  Interestingly, four and a half years isn’t really that long given who infrequently some other bands tour.  But for him, that’s a lifetime and a half.

The Tallest Man on Earth is Kristian Matsson, a Swedish folksinger with a great guitar picking style and a deep powerful gritty voice.   The lights went down and the stage was full of pointy shards of plastic (?) standing upright as a backdrop.  They were primarily white, but I loved the way the lights played off of them changing the colors of the stage.

After a recording of a Swedish song, Matsson came out on stage.  I don’t know if he is usually solo (I assume so).  He was dressed in a white T shirt with light pants that were rolled up.  And he scampered and leapt around the stage with lightness (if not always grace).  He capered.  From one side of the stage to the other, he checked in with the audience while he was singing.

He played two songs on electric guitar (“The Foothills” which I think is new and “The Gardener,” which is very much not new).  His voice is deep and gruff and incredibly powerful.

After two songs he switched guitars.  This time to an acoustic 12 string.

There’s something really fantastic about his guitar playing that just fills a room.  With just the one guitar (okay, like a dozen guitars, but one at a time) his songs never sound like a guy with a guitar.  He has a very percussive style of play and he uses a lot of opening tunings so his notes ring out and fill the room.  It’s pretty wonderful.

He also let us in on a secret.  After the third song, he stopped to tell us that his nail had come off. He told a lengthy story about himself and Jose Gonzales and how they both glue extra fingernails on the tips of their fingers to help the with their playing style.  And one of them had just popped off so he needed some glue.  He told us that he took off the nails at the end of the show so he could look normal, but that he couldn’t play without them.  So we waited while he talked and fixed his nail(s).

Then he switched over to an acoustic six string for the next couple of songs.

Joking that SHE doesn’t need fake nails, he called Daughter of Swords to perform a lovely duet of The Velvet Underground’s “I Found a Reason.”

When Alexandra left the stage, he went over to the piano that was at the side of the stage for There’s No Leaving Now.”

With a new six string acoustic, he played a few more songs like the fantastic “1904” and “King of Spain.”  Then he brought out his banjo for “Somewhere in the Mountains, Somewhere in New York.”  And he ended the set with an electric and electrifying version of “The Stranger.”

When he came back out for the encore, he sneaked around through the sculptures, hiding behind them and peeking out above them.

He started the encore with “The Wild Hunt,” and we all sang along.  Then he ended the show with piano version of “Like The Wheel.”

At the end of the song he stood on the piano and waved to everyone in turn, rotating to make sure he got everyone.  And then he leapt off the piano and scampered off stage.

What a fun show!  (I didn’t even need to mention the group of ten drunks behind me who were talking really loudly about New York and their drinks and who knows what else.  They sucked).

  1. The Foothills
  2. The Gardener
  3. Wind and Walls
  4. Dark Bird Is Home ♠
  5. Rivers
  6. A Lion’s Heart
  7. I Found a Reason (The Velvet Underground cover) (with Daughter of Swords)
  8. There’s No Leaving Now (piano)
  9. The Running Styles of New York ♥
  10. I’ll Be a Sky ♥
  11. 1904
  12. Love Is All
  13. King of Spain
  14. Revelation Blues
  15. Somewhere in the Mountains, Somewhere in New York ‰
  16. I’m a Stranger Now ♥
  17. The Dreamer §
  18. The Wild Hunt
  19. Like the Wheel (piano) §

♥ I Love You, It’s a Fever Dream (2019)
‰ When the Bird Sees the Solid Ground EP (2018)

♠ Dark Bird is Home (2015)
⊗ There’s No Leaving Now (2012)
€ The Wild Hunt (2010)

§ Sometimes the Blues is Just a Passing Bird EP (2010)
⊄ Shallow Grave (2008)


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[ATTENDED: March 12, 2022] Daughter of Swords

In my head, I thought that a show that started at 6:30 would be over in plenty of time for me to make a show that started at 8 a few blocks away.

I guess I hadn’t counted on Wet Leg having an opening band (of course, they couldn’t really charge a full price ticket for 45 minutes of music, right?).  So Wet Leg ended at roughly 8:15.  It took me about 10 minutes to walk to Union Transfer and get situated.  I saw the end of one Daughter of Swords song and by the time I found the much closer spot where I wanted to stand, she announced that she had one song left.

So I saw the final Daughter of Swords song. (more…)

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[CANCELLED: July 31-August 2, 2020] Newport Folk Festival

Last year we took the whole family to two days of the Newport Folk Festival.  It was a fun experience for the most part.  Both kids were exhausted and my son decided he’d rather stay in the hotel than go on the second day.  However, this year he said he;d like to go again, so since the 2020 Festival was cancelled, maybe next year all four of us will go again.

I was not surprised that the Festival was cancelled. But it was still a shock when it happened on April 29th.

Here’s the formal message

Dear Folk-

This is the letter I was praying I wouldn’t have to write, feeling we need the healing powers of live music more now than ever. It is with the heaviest of hearts we announce the cancellation of the 2020 Newport Folk Festival. As devastating as it is to write those words, it’s balanced with a renewed sense of, well, HOPE. It’s Rhode Island’s motto for good reason and it’s also the feeling you, our festival family, constantly exudes when we come together in good times and perhaps more importantly, in difficult times as well. This community is truly unlike any other in music, and I believe we can emerge from this hardship stronger and more connected than ever before.

However, while your safety was at the core of the present decision, your support will be at the core of our future viability. Our ability to produce this festival in 2021 – and continue making a lasting difference in the lives of artists, students and music lovers like yourselves – is in your hands. Quite simply, we need your help.

Due to the financial and institutional uncertainties we find ourselves in, we believe the most trusting and direct course of action is to let the ticket holders decide where their ticket dollars should go. We have sent all ticket holders an email mapping out three options: 1) donate all or a portion of your ticket that will go directly towards ensuring our festival for 2021 while continuing our support for artists and educators; 2) apply your refund towards a 2021 Revival Membership – a new and one-time offer we’ve created specifically to ensure our future and provide these members with 3-day tickets to the 2021 festival (remaining memberships will be offered to the general public directly after the request period); and 3) receive a 100% full refund if desired.

For those of you who didn’t have tickets for this year, PLEASE consider making a tax-deductible donation. Help us continue these festivals, support year-round music education initiatives, and provide grants to artists in need.

I want to personally thank our founder George Wein, our staff, our Board of Directors, the City of Newport, and the DEM for their continued efforts. And, offer a personal note of gratitude to Rhode Island Governor, Gina Raimondo, for her leadership and counsel in prioritizing our well being in making the decision to cancel the festival.

Although we won’t be able to gather at the Fort this summer, rest assured we have invited ALL the announced artists to join us next year. In the meantime, we promise we will all commune one way or another on our festival weekend. As always, we have some secret surprises in store as well, so stay tuned for more details in the coming weeks. Until then, stay strong and folk on.


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SOUNDTRACK: DAUGHTER OF SWORDS-Tiny Desk Concert #971 (April 29, 2020).

Alexandra Sauser-Monnig is part of Mountain Man (who did a Tiny Desk Concert some time ago).  Daughter of Swords is her solo project.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, it is just as quiet and delicate as Mountain Man but with a little more instrumentation.

Though she’s joined by a full band here, Daughter of Swords was originally envisioned as a solo project for Alexandra Sauser-Monnig. … With a few hushed folk songs, the music was so eerily still, you could have heard a phone vibrate.

This has to be one of the quietest four-piece bands ever on Tiny Desk.

As “Long Leaf Pine” begins, all you hear is a low rumble–the floor tom from Joe Westerlund.  Then Alexandra Sauser-Monnig begins singing quietly.  Maia Friedman supplies soft backing vocals from time to time.  Sauser-Monnig sings high and quiet and amazingly hits and even higher note before the end.

I like the sound of “Shining Woman” more. I think Alex Bingham’s bass stands out a bit more.  Or maybe it’s because Friedman plays an electric guitar accompaniment.  This song starts with a smattering of interesting percussion from Westerlund and while it is in no way loud, it moves faster than the previous song.

When Mountain Man was here, they talked about breakfast food.  Alexandra reprises that by asking what people had for breakfast.  Answers: a banana, a soft-boiled egg.  Alexandra had a green smoothie and goes on about the large piece of toast she had.  She doesn’t normally eat bread and this felt crazy to her [that should tell you all you need to know about Sauser-Monnig].  Bassist Alex Bingham says, “wild day so far.”

For the final song, “Prairie Winter Wasteland” Friedman plays the guitar to start this song–quietly ringing electric guitar.  There’s an interesting bass line from Bingham on this song and Westerlnd is using a small whisk brush on the cymbals.

[READ: April 20, 2020] “Ride or Die”

This is an excerpt from the novel The Last Taxi Driver.

Set in Mississippi, this excerpt follows a cab driver with one fare, a man just released from prison.

He says they never tell him what they were in for, only that they just got out.

This man–white dude, mid-thirties, a few missing teeth, a few prison tats–is in a fantastic mood.  He’s carrying a twelve-pack of Bud Light and asks to go to the Bethune Woods Project.

The driver says he didn’t even know these projects existed before he started driving a cab.  Most of the other cab companies shun the projects.  He knows that Uber is coming to town “I’ve never used an Uber and don’t understand how that works”), and he assumed they will shun the projects too. (more…)

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 SOUNDTRACK: MOUNTAIN MAN-3 songs from Tiny Desk Family Hour (March 12, 2019).

These next few shows were recorded at NPR’s SXSW Showcase.

Mountain Man have been all over NPR the last couple of months.  And here they are again, showing off their beautiful voices in a church.

When Mountain Man began a decade ago, it consisted of three close friends arraying their voices in a resplendent blend, often without so much as an acoustic guitar for adornment. Today, the configuration remains exactly the same, except that all three members — Alexandra Sauser-Monnig, Molly Sarlé and Amelia Meath — have developed strong solo identities along the way. Sauser-Monnig also records wonderful folk-pop songs under the name Daughter of Swords, Molly Sarlé released a magnificent single under her own name earlier this year, and Meath is the singing, dancing half of the transcendent synth-pop powerhouse Sylvan Esso.  So when Mountain Man showed up for a softly joyful set at NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Family Hour — recorded live at Austin’s Central Presbyterian Church during SXSW on Tuesday night — it was almost like seeing four acts at once: three solo, one collective. Choosing a single excerpt was a fool’s errand, so here are three: the breezy a cappella “AGT,” from 2018’s Magic Ship, as well as Mountain Man arrangements of Sarlé’s “Human” and Daughter of Swords’ “Grasses.”

The opening song is a capella.  It is started by Alexandra with first Molly and then Amelia all joining in to make their gorgeous harmonies.  After the first round through the song, they start singing faster and faster.  To a frankly impressively rapid speed by the end.

The second song is by Molly Sarlé.  She says it’s about how “unfortunately easy it is to talk to god like he’s a man.”  Molly sings the main body while gently strumming her guitar.  Amelia and Alexandra provide the lovely backing vocals.   (I love that Amelia seems to be cracking up a lot through the show, but is always pitch perfect).

Alexandra Sauser-Monnig’s Daughter of Swords song “Grasses” is up next.  The guitar is more picked than strummed, but it is still a very quiet, gentle song.  I really like Molly’s voice as a backing vocalist.

They’ll be performing at Newport Folk Festival and I’m intrigued to see them.

[READ: March 18, 2019] “Color and Light”

I assumed that this story is set in Ireland, although there was nothing explicitly stated about the location–except that it is by the water.

The main character Aidan, has an older brother Declan (could be Ireland or just America).  When we first meet them, they are in Declan’s car and he is driving a woman, Pauline.  Pauline is bold and flirtatious.  She is a screenwriter.  Declan doesn’t say much and Aidan is very shy.  So that leaves Pauline to make all of the comments.  She learns that Aidan works in the hotel.  And at one point she stares at him for a couple of minutes while he puzzles out what she’s after.

A few weeks later Pauline comes to the hotel restaurant with an entourage.  Aidan is surprised at how deferential everyone is to her.  She sort of recognizes him at first and when he explains who he is she seems happy to see him.  When she leaves with her crew she invites him along but he refuses.

A few nights later Declan picks up Aidan from work and a drunk Pauline is in the back seat.  She is feistier than usual and asks Aidan all sots of personal questions–like has he ever slept with a guest at the hotel.  Declan yells that she is flirting with him.  And when Aidan turns around to look at her, sprawled on the backseat, Declan punches him.  By the time Declan drops them off, Aidan can’t tell if Declan is mad at him or at her. (more…)

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