One of my greatest passions in life is stories. I love stories. I love to be told stories, I love to tell stories, I love to interpret, dwell on, ponder, elaborate upon, discuss, and enjoy stories. I love books because they tell amazing stories. I love movies because they tell a great story, even beneath some of the cheese and bullshit existing in the mainstream media, there is always a good story to be told. Two Gallants is a band set out to tell a breathtaking, passionate story. Rather than using pictures or filling up hundreds of pages with words, they have chosen music as their medium with which to tell their story, or rather a novella. A novella is described as short prose being either satire or teaching a moral. What the Toll Tells is a passionate tale of murder, running away, jail, patriotism, and racism sending its listener rollicking through what feels much like the Old West with its references to Billy the Kid and its setting which seems to exist in that cowboy past.
The first track on the album, "Las Cruces Jail," opens with the whipping and whistling of wind followed by the ominous ringing of lead singer Adam Stephens' guitar. When the noise begins to fade out around one minute. Stephens and his partner Tyson Vogel on drums burst into the speakers like a gunshot in an empty desert moving just as speedily across the terrain as a bullet would. "Las Cruces Jail" seems to be a reference to Billy the Kid with several lines seeming to come from the Kid's lore. For example Kid was infamous for having killed twenty one men, one for each year of his life, and the line "That's twenty-one fell by my gun... just need one more to match my age," seems to support this interpretation.
The first song can be deceiving though if you would think the whole album would keep up with the pace of "Las Cruces Jail." But rather, What the Toll Tells ranges from deep, reflective blues to the catchier pop, folk songs such as the second track, "Steady Rollin'," to a few slow, lingering mourning songs to epic, monumental ballads. The final track on the album is called "Waves of Grain," an extremely patriotic song that I played as loud as I possibly could on the 4th of July yelling my lungs out just because it was so perfect. "Waves of Grain" is quite possibly the best conclusion to a record I have ever heard in my life. When Vogel's and Stephens' instruments fade out at the end, and there is just silence, it leaves nothing but satisfaction. The listener cant help but feel that the two man band (which they try not to represent themselves as) has given their all and they do not run out of momentum and energy until the listener does too.
There are few bands that hold as much control over the moods of their audience as well as Two Gallants do. Two Gallants has a story to tell and they know exactly how they want the ears on the receiving end to feel, and happily accomplish this with ease. What the Toll Tells is one of those albums that have to be listened to the whole way through, and there is nothing like music that can carry such momentum and keep attention on itself for that long. What the Toll Tells is a huge accomplishment, a magnum opus, for Two Gallants and I greatly anticipate everything this band seeks to do with their talent in the future.