Music: Two Gallants, in the Throes of Folk Blues

by Vincent Lee

Some may make the mistake of viewing the Two Gallants as another band like The White Stripes or Black Keys. However, the number of musicians in the group is where the comparison begins and ends. As opposed to the minimalist and bare blues sound The White Stripes and Black Keys use, the Two Gallants prefer a more folk blues sound with several songs of great length. Through only three albums the Two Gallants have accomplished more than most in their entire career.

Their first release, The Throes, was primarily driven by superb story-telling lyrics. Most of the songs surround various topics of loss and depression in their many forms. Lead singer Adam Stephens alternates singing from third person and first person views in his various stories. The stand out is the title track “The Throes” where Stephens sings about an abusive husband and the thoughts that run through the wife's mind and keep her tied to him.

Two years later, the band signed with Saddle Creek Records, which is primarily viewed as an indie label, with artists such as Bright Eyes. With Saddle Creek, the duo from San Francisco (Tyson Vogel is the band's drummer) released their second album What the Toll Tells. The story telling that made the lyrics so strong continued. However, this time the lyrics became even edgier. After singing mostly about the pains and unfortunate reactions to loss, What the Toll Tells took a much darker tone in its lyrics. Several of the songs play with ideas of death and violence, this is most noted on the single “Steady Rollin'.”

Their latest release is self-titled (released in September of this year) and it takes a different approach than the previous two. Where as the first two albums were half four-or-five-minute songs and half eight-minute-plus songs, the self-titled record features mostly shorter songs. This album is much less dark and violent than What the Toll Tells. Lyrically, the themes follow narratives about personal struggles even more than before. The best tracks from the new release are "Despite What You've Been Told" and "The Hand that Held Me Down."

The Two Gallants have made notable progress with each album. Lyrically and musically they develop in some way with each release. In a time where rock is getting more mundane and repetitive, the Two Gallants offer something fresh and new. From the powerful storytelling to the bluesy folk sound, the Two Gallants are a unique and special band.

(Photo of Two Gallants in concert at the Latitude Festivl in Suffolk, England from earlier this year by Mike Mantin of Bristol, U.K. via Flickr, using a Creative Commons License. Two Gallants continue their European tour tonight, Dec. 11, with a performance in Munich, Germany. To see the Two Gallants' video for "Steady Rollin'" please check below.)

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