The Two Gallants new EP release entitled The Scenery Of Farewell is an outstanding acoustic offering. The five tracks exemplify folk music with a hard edge that has a soulful timbre. They’ve successfully woven lyrical ballads with a sound that has weight and resonance.
Adam Stephens raspy worn vocals and astute harmonica playing, cries and bends to reach emotional heights. He boldly fingerpicks the guitar. Tyson Vogel lends percussion elements and sings in a softer higher vocal range. Adding to the mix is violin, cello, stand up bass, and piano passages that fill the memorable melodies.
I love the strong acoustic quality of these recordings. The songs were produced and recorded on tape by Alex Newport, requiring several live takes to arrive at the right feel, rather than piecing together and editing parts. The end result is a very organic minimal sound.
The writing style is indicative of oral histories written in the first person. The song structure opens up avenues for the listener, using poetic lyrical phrasing and variety of reference points.
The first track “Seems Like Home To Me” is a tour de force, capitalizing on the vocals of the two members. The song starts off with the Two Gallants singing in unison. Then in just one passage Stephens’ sings alone deriving an affecting rendering of the lyrics. This song about longing to be set free, proclaims "Baby let your light shine on me / when I’m lost on the road / you know you can set me free / you can ease my love /." As the song builds the forceful steady beat of the bass drum is added leading to the songs crescendo, a rich and glorious chorus declaring "I’ve been gone so long / it seems like home to me /."
“Lady” starts out slowly with guitar strumming, as an aging man struggles over being "Too busy running out of time /." He thinks about his regrets and worries over his personal troubles while comparing them to others. Thus the weaving of contrasts, "/ something reeks of heaven beneath the highway where the hobos sleep / where the hobos sleep / and I laugh about the pains I keep /."
Presenting an emotional description of despair as the heartbreaking words are perceived through instruments in “Up the Country”. Blending the harmonica, violin, and cello to hauntingly pause as if to sob. He proclaims, "Now there are criminals in my head that lead me to disgrace / so lost I best not be found /. The sadness seeps in and he laments / my tongue no longer tastes / and / not sure how long I’ll stick around /."
The soulful harmonica plays in “All Your Faithless Loyalties” and the song starts with the opening phrase, "Let this be are last goodbye /." Describing the tentative nature of breaking up, "I’ve known lonesome things you can’t come back from /." Realizing that the inevitable result will be, "I know we’ll be strangers in the end /." The choral segments sung beautifully by Vogel, reflects the weariness of in-decision as time goes by singing "oh oh oh oh oooh."
Ending the collection with “Linger On” The piano, violin and harmonica intertwine and swell to present the essence of lingering thoughts about the end of a long and complicated relationship. Stephens sings / I know I never meant you any harm / the suffocating shelter of your arms / if I did you wrong / It wasn’t me, but you who wrote this song / linger on / linger on /… PLEASE….
This evolved collection of songs is a welcome addition to growing discography of this young band. It does linger in a sad but good way. Their follow up will be a full-length release due out in September of this year. It will be a more electric session recorded again with the help of Alex Newport. I look forward to their next offering.
Recorded on tape by Alex Newport at Hyde Street Studios in San Francisco.
Featured: Jackie Perez Gratz on cello, Anton Patzner on the violin and Chico Tunney on the upright bass. Artwork was laid out by: Mr. Maust of the cold war kids. The Front photo by: Wignall and back photo by Mr. Jakie Peanuts Snavely.