Two Gallants

"Desperate times call for desperate men," howls Two Gallants vocalist Adam Stephens during the opening track of his band's most recent CD, What the Toll Tells. He follows up that truism with a knowing wink, "I'm just a kid, but I'll pretend." There's been a lot made of the incongruence between this San Francisco duo's extreme youthfulness and the sound of their music -- a grizzled, rustic and gnarled perversion of country and blues tropes. "This music is extremely personal to us," insists drummer Tyson Vogel, "even though it's not always personal tales. But we'd be cheating ourselves and everyone else if we had any part of our body that would incline us to be faking it."

Faking it they're not, as anyone who's seen the pair in concert can attest. There's a casual camaraderie between Vogel and Stephens that lays the groundwork for a brutal intensity of emotion onstage. The pair has an almost telepathic musical connection, and occasionally seem to be operating as a single, multi-armed organism. "In some ways I think that we've almost switched roles in our instruments," confirms Vogel, who carries his sticks and mallets in a bright red Care Bears carrying case. "It's kind of by default, but Adam, in doing his fingerpicking, is sort of confined to almost timekeeping a little bit more than I am. I've been told that there are times I kind of play the melody on the drums."

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Scott Faingold