The first song on the Two Gallants’ second album, What The Toll Tells, begins with howling winds and a breathy whistle, leading you to prepare for a bittersweet “Patience” style ballad, when suddenly the song unsheathes its claws and leaps straight for your eyes. The song, “Las Cruces Jail,” is fairly indicative of the Two Gallants’ style covering murder, hanging, and jailbreak.
Adam Stephens (lead vocals, guitar, harp) and Tyson Vogel (drums, vocals) live in San Francisco, so their classic country sound may seem strange. Before people who instinctively hate country tune out, the Two Gallants sound more like The White Stripes than Boxcar Willie, focusing on the lyrical storytelling that made country great before succumbing to hacks like Toby Keith.
The songs on What the Toll Tells run the gamut of narrative emotion, from boisterous to sorrowful and often humorous, imbued with an American gothic sound. They seem to have made only one radio friendly concession with “The Prodigal Son.” “Thenody in Minor B” is particularly beautiful, juxtaposing Stephens’ gravely howl over the soft plucking of a harp in a rough style…in a Bob Dylan, folk way; as if his vocal chords are raw from pure emotion.
At times the songs become too harsh and cacophonous for one man to take. However, What the Toll Tells is a completely enjoyable and wonderfully written album.