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Friday, June 29, 2007

“I’m Sure You’ve Seen Better, But for You I’ll Do My Best”

posted by on June 29 at 12:00 PM

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Ari brought up Two Gallants’ new EP The Scenery of Farewell. That’s my cue to gush.

There are no better songwriters working today than Two Gallants. Adam Stephens’ razor-wire voice is the perfectly damaged vehicle for his broken blues storytelling, archetypal folktales of departure and loss and big cities and wide country. He brings to mind early Dylan not in his tone but in the fact that his isn’t a good voice but it’s the only one you can imagine singing these words. You like the Decemberists, you like Okkervil River, you like Bright Eyes? Literate bands, all, but Two Gallants have them beat. This stuff is ruined, raw, unprecious, and unrepentent. Fucking young guys, the both of them, but there’s so much living packed into these songs.

The Scenery of Farewell strips down those songs acoustically and then beefs them up with extra instruments—upright bass, piano, marimba, shaker, fiddle—making for some real barroom/bordello kinda swing. Ari’s right—opener “Seems Like Home” is the strongest number, timeless, one of the all-time best songs to sing while you’re drunk. (At Sasquatch a friend and I stumbled around the campgrounds the night after the Gallants’ set, bawling “Seems Like Home,” sharing a bottle of Jameson with randoms. We eventually found the Gallants’ camp and shared some with them. It was a great night.)

But “All Your Faithless Loyalties” is a live favorite that strains drummer Tyson Vogel’s brittle voice on backup in all the right ways, and “Lady” is a tale of San Francisco regret that hurts in a beautiful way. “Linger On,” the closer, is boosted by profoundly dramatic piano. These song’s are long and languid—six minutes, eight minutes—very slowly building to crushing climaxes, not as rollicking on “Seems Like Home.” They’re immediately evocative, but stretched out and fully developed they turn into mini tragic epics. This isn’t background music—the lyrics demand attention, the structure demands patience. It isn’t for everyone but once Two Gallants get under your skin, there’s no better itch to scratch.

Two Gallants open for Les Claypool on Tuesday of next week at the Showbox. Weird pairing, but if you’ve never seen them live you really ought to check them out. They slay.

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