What the Toll Tells
Following in the steel-toed steps of Johnny Cash, Two Gallants prove that even the most rugged men just need to cry, cry, cry once in a while. The San Francisco duo blends the bittersweet twang of alt-country with the beer-guzzling vocals of garage rock. Singer Adam Stephens and drummer Tyson Vogel named themselves after a 1905 James Joyce short story and issued their debut, The Throes, in 2004. The combo drew notice for their desperate and impassioned soliloquies, punctuated by rootsy guitar riffs and harmonicas. The influences on the band's sophomore release, What the Toll Tells (their first for indie stalwart Saddle Creek), similarly range from the acoustic folk balladry of Bob Dylan to the unpolished bluesy swagger of the White Stripes.
The disc's throwback tunes about the search for redemption are laced with a combination of regret, sorrow and booze. Opener "Las Cruces Jail" kicks off with a somber whistled tune, before launching into a rollicking, foot-stomping chorus, much like an indie-punk version of "Folsom Prison Blues." "I shot one man on the county line / Took his time and I blew his mind," Stephens howls. "And I'm just sitting here doing time / Sun don't you rise no more." Down-home licks grace tales about lust and lawlessness, like the accounts of racism on "Long Summer Day" and the shattered dreams of "Age of Assassins." And on "Steady Rollin," Stephens talks about murdering his wife and dropping her in the 'Frisco Bay before uttering a bittersweet line: "But if you should ever need me / I'll go wherever you lead me." Crime may not pay, but it certainly can sound poetic.
LP / CD / MP3
LP / CD / MP3