"Two Sides To Every Story" isn't just the title of the new album by Peter Gallway and Annie Gallup, it's the concept too. Joined by the legendary Jerry Marotta on drums, the Santa Barbara-based duo's sixth album is collection of ten songs, written in pairs with the couple alternating lead vocals, each of the five chapters separated by a brief musical interlude with them coming together to duet on the epilogue.
As the title suggests, the song pairs are also written from opposite perspectives, the result being arguably their best work to date. Gallway opens proceedings with the five minute soulful rolling "Drive" the narrator driving across Canada, , if not for any particular purpose but because "Sometimes you drive to clear your mind, sometimes you drive to get away, sometimes you drive just to drive", his mind drifting between thoughts of suicide ("what if I lose control. Give myself to the ice ahead. It wouldn't be so bad") and the half-sister he left behind in setting out in search of becoming someone he's not yet been." Then comes the night star-kissed feel of the cosmic folk "Kill The Lights", with a whispery Gallup dreaming of her brother driving across Canada "just the way I used to see him before time stood still", the line "some things break and they're broken for real" picking up on the foreboding in the previous narrative.
The second pairing concerns the nature and value of beauty, the shuffling rhythm of the retro soul-pop "Currency" finding Gallway talking about a girl making the most of her looks while she can and how "What you've been given and what you've got is the way you move through this world, with everything taken and everything lost and the relative blessing of what it cost." Then it's Gallup's turn with the beguilingly lovely "Beauty" (both run exactly 4.38 mins), pedal steel and brushed drums painting a Janis Ian-like reflection by the girl narrator who, armed with "a sleeping bag, a book of poems and a Pentax SLR… set out to see the world through my own eyes not hiding behind the beauty I wore as a disguise", talking of the real free beauty of nature captured by her lens" and finding love with one who looks beyond what he sees.
Life through a camera also informs the next chapter, the order reversed with Gallup up first on the Paul Simon-like tumbling syncopated rhythm of "This Kind of Money", a song about an actor chasing fame and ambition, currency again figuring as "This kind of money won't stand still
It takes on a life of its own." A simple acoustic guitar, keening pedal steel and piano notes provide Gallway's backdrop on the nostalgia-hued "Black and White" which suggests the subject of the former song remembering the old Gardner, Bogart, Hayworth, Burton and Sinatra movies that sparked his dream to be a leading man and, sustaining the cinematic imagery, the subsequent seamless continuity of a love story born on set.
Rhe brief haunted desert ambience of "So Damned Hot" sets the mood for Gallup's "Texas From Here", a waltzing tale of summer heatwaves, and a relationship that never worked out ("your careless unkindness, did you know how much it hurt?), the girl referred to in the lyrics becoming the subject of Gallway's rockier (think Petty meets Steely Dan) "CJ", again built around memories of hot Texas nights and the narrator's regrets about ruining what he had by cheating with her friend.
You can't have an album about the heart unless there's a song about the bottle too, and the final chapter begins with Gallup's bittersweet slow country waltzing "Loving A Drunk", a quiet resignation and acceptance informing the opening verse
"What I liked best about loving a drunk
was the slow, sweet start to the day
He's be dead to the world and sleeping it off
I would open the windows and empty the ashtrays
and watch sunrise glittering on the grass like broken glass
What I liked best about loving a drunk
was the lonely part of the day."
Gallway takes over the story as the guy with the drinking problem ("I'm not sure what I did tonight but someone's bound to tell") for the equally slow sway, but here with drums and keyboard, "Someone Like Me", it too unfolding the story of a childhood romance grown up to become a desert with the dust and the debris of broken dreams drowned in a glass, the alcoholic's promise to "find some dignity when my thirst begins to fade" and the woman who stands by him despite everything.
And so, following the piano notes and backwards loop of "Sepia Tone", it ends with their voices coming together, trading lines on the 52 seconds of "Remember (Six)", half a lifetime of memories, hot nights, love and passion, two sides, one story joined at the bruised heart.
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