What the Toll Tells
"We've been calling it Pulk." Rod was referring to the music he and Tad, his roommate, were recording in their living room back in Idaho Springs. They had a couple of microphones always on stands next to the couch and a computer with a Digi002 ProTools setup. "It's punk folk."
"Like, what do you mean?," asked the ski bum.
"We're trying to have the energy and rage of punk, but we want to stick to the intimacy of folk music and just use two acoustic guitars," Rod explained.
"Cool, man. You should check out Two Gallants," said the ski bum.
"The James Joyce short story?". Rod had read Dubliners and a few other stories, but, when he thought of Joyce, he was inevitably reminded of a friend's ex-bootie-call-friend. She called her occasional hook-up "Emo Boy", because, in her words, he cried a lot and his favorite book was Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.
"No, man. The band. They're from San Francisco and they just joined Saddle Creek," the ski bum said.
"Really?". Rod was familiar with the Omaha, NE, record label. He had become a fan of Bright Eyes over the years. That alone made him check out most of the other bands on the label. He liked some of the folkier aspects of a couple of Azure Ray songs, some of the catchy dynamics of a few Sorry About Dresden songs, and some of the originality of some of Cursive's material, but, ultimately, he had been disappointed by a lot of those bands. Bright Eyes was the only thing on Saddle Creek that seemed to fit his idea of Pulk Music.
Rod and the ski bum got off the first lift, skied down the ramp and shimmied to the next set of chairs. There was a short line.
"So what do Two Gallants sound like?," Rod asked.
"They're a two-piece. One guy plays guitar and harmonica and he sings. The other guy plays drums and sings some background vocals."
"Like the White Stripes? Or The Black Keys?"
"More Black Keys. It's blues-oriented, like that, but it's more of a country blues feel. You gotta hear this one song of theirs, it's called 'Long Summer Day.' It's about racial discrimination. It's the story of part of America's history, you know, that we can't escape from and would like to sweep under the rug. It's told from the point of view of a black man in Mississippi back around 1917. The guy in the song saw his dad burned and hung when he was five. Now, as a man, he goes to vote and is told he can't cause he's not white. He talks about Heaven, and how the Southern heat feels like Hell. And after telling his story he says something like, 'If I'm dead by sunrise kiss my baby girl for me. It ain't life if it ain't free. I've got a mighty burden to unload.'"
"I know. You gotta check these guys out. Their new album is called When The Toll Tells. It's got that punk-fuck-you attitude with this Muddy Waters feel."
Rod was intrigued. "Sounds like something I'd love."
The final chairlift was coming to an end, but the ski bum kept babbling about this album.
"The first track is 'Las Cruces Jail' - man, it's so damn good. It starts and ends with this whistling wind sound. And it tells the best jail story since Johnny Cash sang about listening to the train from Folsom Prison. The whole album ends with 'Waves of Grain', this amazing, dark ballad that's drenched with lines like 'the fetus of Christ with a fistful of scarves.' The emotions on the album tell outrageous stories and tales that are timeless."
"I'm going to have to get that album. Thanks for telling me about it," said Rod.
"Don't mention it. Thanks for the pot." And then the ski bum was off.
Rod put the little iPod headphones back in his ears and started his last trek of the day down the mountain and straight to The Beach, the name given to the parking lot at the edge of the ski resort. He was listening to some album. It didn't matter what album he was playing. He wanted to hear Two Gallants. He needed to hear them.
LP / CD / MP3
LP / CD / MP3