Reviews Two Gallants The Bloom And The Blight

Two Gallants

The Bloom And The Blight

2012 sees Two Gallants coming back from a 5-year hiatus with their new release The Bloom and the Blight. How have the ensuing years treated the San Francisco blues-folk duo? Well, the press sheet calls it a record of catharsis, so one can only assume there were some personal events that transpired since 2007’s self-titled release. The major item that stands out on the new record, however, is the increased use of loud rock instrumentation. The ten songs here give an extra kick into blues-rock territory, basically abandoning the pretense of folk and sounding like a full band in the process.

A louder highlight comes in the form of “Willie,” a CCR-styled Southern rocker, with a big chorus and some fun guitar work. However, a lot of the louder elements come across with too much of a Black Keys vibe, built around noodling guitar and overly emotive vocals. The louder elements work at times, mostly in the dynamic shifts and big release moments of songs like “Cradle Pyre” but they feel like a drag in others, such as “Winter’s Youth” or “Halcyon Days.” The band’s strength comes in their ability to weave between the two performers, as Adam Stephens (guitar) and Tyson Vogel (drums) have been playing together since their youth, and the partnership is clear in the way they play off one another, often using earthy and wailing vocals over a blues-folk base where the vocal wails emphasize the more dramatic, emotional elements while the calmer, backing music gave a counter, calming demeanor. When the volume dial gets turned up, the dichotomy is replaced by a rock band and the quaintness is lost.

There are still strong pieces on The Bloom and the Blight. “Broken Eyes,” has a skeletal guitar strum/harmonica base that builds over soul-felt vocals that harmonize at key moments, building without any shifts in dynamics—it may be the closest thing to the folk label on the record, doing more with less in one of the more emotional displays. Similarly, “Sunday Souvenirs” is a nice closer, using a lighter approach complemented with piano to bring the record to a contemplative finish. This continues in “Decay,” a slower, more personal feeling song that also abandons the overly bluesy, louder feel, and it works much better. In “Ride Away” there is a nice cinematic, riding-into-a-doomed-sunset tone, with lyrics to match and a dramatic element characteristic of some of their older work, though with a bit more texture though it, too, as it crescendos into a big bluesy ending.

In many ways, this record feels to be more finely polished than previous efforts and that extra coat doesn’t always improve the songs. Overall, though, the record brings too many shades of other bands to mind, feeling a bit generic and losing that interplay that made older songs so unique.

6.7 / 10Loren
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2012

6.7 / 10

6.7 / 10

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