And you hide the dead while my friends head to die in your name. 'This playground is yours' spoke God when you met behind closed doors, 'Gesture your hands and the pawns shall subside.' And though you play alone, you never get lonely, you never get bored. Who needs a friend when God's on your side? But oh no, I see them falling. Let's all pray for rain. And even I can't pretend that we're not near the end. But what when all your fields are rotten, your waves of grain, amber waves of grain? When your days are done, I hope you've had fun with your game.

-"Waves of Grain" from What The Toll Tells

Adam Stephens :: High Sierra Music Festival by Dave Vann

If the band's gut-wrenching stories, down-home demeanor, and raucous live shows don't gain them fame and fortune one fan at a time, their new album just may. With a real producer, Scott Solter (Spoon, Mountain Goats), a real record label (Saddle Creek), and a dedicated team who believes in the band, Two Gallants stands a legitimate chance of "making it." It's not that their debut, The Throes, is lacking in any way, shape, or form - quite the contrary. It's an arresting and impressive album that put the band on the map. It's just that with their February 21st release, What The Toll Tells, the Two Gs have taken their trade and refined it. They've long since "found their voice." Here, they amplify and elaborate on it, creating a more patient, more mature record. Adam explains, "With What The Toll Tells, we chose to do it on analog first of all, and The Throes was just a very different time for us. We were only given a certain amount of time to record the album, which was like seven days, and to mix it and master it. It just wasn't a very conducive atmosphere for creativity, and the producer was more like a person there to press the buttons and tell us what not to do."

Adam Stephens recording for What The Toll Tells
By Charlie Villyard
With time and a budget to let ideas grow and with Solter, who Adam describes as having "an amazing, really sensitive ear," each of the nine songs on the new album are fully realized and broad in range. Shifting in form and style from the abrasive, half-folk, half-punk opener, "Las Cruces Jail," to the tender, eight-minute ballad with subtle cello and violin, "Some Slender Rest" (Adam's favorite song on the album), to the poignant, incredibly affective story of slavery told from the black man's point of view, "Long Summer Day," there is an incredible amount of ground covered.

It's the type of album that unfolds before you; the more you listen, the better it gets. In fact, with every spin I find a new song claiming "my favorite" status. First was "Steady Rollin'" with Adam singing, "My lovin' lady she's a ball-and-chain / I still can travel but my speed has changed / I bring the money I take the blame / Steady Rollin' I keep goin' / But I shot my wife today / Dropped her body in the Frisco Bay / I had no choice it was the only way / Death's comin I'm still runnin." Next was the haunting, sparse "Threnody In Minor B," which Tyson references when I ask him what song he has really been enjoying, followed by the twangy, dusty "Age of Assassins," and lately, the political-burner "Waves of Grain."

Adam Stephens By Grace Dunn
When I ask Adam about the lyrics to "Waves of Grain" and tell him that they seem to be political in nature, he smiles a wry little smirk and says, "Ya, I guess. I think a word like 'political' is taking a side, and that song in particular doesn't really take a side. It's just sort of filling in the blanks and fleshing out the picture a little bit. I think it's pretty obvious it's not a pro-Bush song, but I don't really like the word political, I think in politics people get too wrapped up in 'Which side are you on?' and 'Who are you fighting for?' These days it's so vague and so overlapping. The Democratic Party is just as warped as the Republican Party, and I don't think either of us, or really anyone in our generation, feels much of an association with any of that, so it's hard to get very political about it. To me, it's more just like being moral - what's right and what's wrong - and it's pretty fuckin' obvious to me. Like imposing our agenda on the rest of the world and the fact that we're still doing it even fifty years after colonialism, and we saw how bad that was. And yet we're still doing the same exact thing right now. I just think it comes down to right and wrong."

Two Gallants by Mason Trullinger
Adam's response to my political question, "It's more just being moral - what's right and what's wrong," speaks not only to "Waves of Grain" but to the manner in which Two Gallants approach their craft. Throughout their catalogue, we find harsh, merciless and hard-won victories, yet we also witness the ultimate price being paid for deplorable crimes. There's no sugar-sweet ending and no benefit of the doubt; like the battle of life that many of us face every waking minute, this is real, to the core. They never apologize and rarely make us smile. That's not to say that their music lacks sensitivity or intellect because it most certainly incorporates both, but more often than not it's meant to make you think and often makes you bleed.

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