They might have gone their seperate ways but the Two Gallants are not forgotten. AOIFE O’ CONNOR looks at the record that changed everything for this San Francisco duo
an Francisco duo Adam Stephens and
make a stab at forging out solo careers.
Tyson Vogel better known as the Two
“What The Toll Tells” is a majestic, sporting a rich
Gallants didn’t cause a huge stir when
sound and some of the Two Gallants most energetic songs.
they debuted on the scene in 2004 with the
Their music is diverse; playing with dynamics such as tempo
none-too-fictional ‘The Threos,’ but it was
changes, violent drumming and harmonica-infused solos, as
in fact their best work to date.
well as mixing the genres of blues, country, folk and punk. All
The first album ‘The Threos’ was pretty much written off
of the songs tell affectionate stories with four songs passing the eight minute mark. Stephen’s whose vocals are raspy at
by critics, referring to lyricist Stephens as boring and lacking
the best of times can be taken to whole new levels of almost a
a storyteller’s intuition when it came to penning songs. But
distraught-sounding howl at times. ‘Steady Rollin,’’ a song that
carrying on regardless, songwriter of the pair Stephens
has become synonymous with the Two Gallants makes light
persisted with his literary fantasies and together with Vogel
of a murdering husband getting rid of his wife’s body: “I shot
they created ‘What the Toll Tells,’ in 2006; an album of such
my wife today / Dropped her body in the ‘Frisco bay / I had
emotive material they had critics eating their words. The
no choice, it was the only way.” The album’s emotional core is
album saw the San Franciscan musical twins receive some
especially strong on ‘Las Cruces Jail’ whose words are richly
much deserved credit and proved beyond any doubt that
defiant: “I write to the governor to hear my plea/ But he don’t
Stephens is in fact a master storyteller.
even answer me/ The judge said he’s bound to set my spirit
Named after a short story by James Joyce, the Two
free/ Sun, don’t you rise no more.” ‘Nothing to You,’ is a more
Gallants are deftly instrumental; Stephens on guitar,
upbeat and prose-like song with abrupt pauses like paragraph
harmonica and vocals and Vogel on drums and vocals.
breaks in a story. Stephens writes about being ‘”down by the
The band developed somewhat of a cult following since
riverside wasting away.”
the twosome decided to go their separate ways, with both Stephens and Vogel deciding to take a well-earned break and
Two Gallants are as much campfire storytellers as they are folk or punk musicians as proven by this epic album.
Prototype folk music magazine