I had no idea what to expect from the September, 2014 release of Thief & Love by Virginia Beach-based, Two Bars from the Gun. No family is involved, no ex-bandmates, and I owe no one in the band money; I’m not sure that I even know anyone in the band, which made this experience all the more intriguing.
Not to mention they are reviewing my band’s album at the same time… I had nothing to go on, just these old, dusty headphones, blinking fluorescent office lighting and a borrowed internet connection.
First, I’m a sucker for art direction; this album delivers. I stared at the cover for a good while until curiosity finally got the best. Where was this elusive bench-dweller? I had a feeling I was about to find out. It was the kind of album cover that whispered back at you.
Under the hood of Thief & Love are 12 journeys into the realm of Americana as seen through expertly crafted songwriting. It’s the kind of journey that Springsteen or either Dylan wished they were still taking. In many ways, this album is a tip of the hat to something that song writing has lost along the way: the ability to transport. The overall production of the album sounds like you are right there, in the room with the band. You’re on this journey with them, and I heart that kind of production. It’s an art form reserved for the pros, and Two Bars from the Gun has captured it.
The guitar tones are well executed, mood-provoking even. There are no “local heroes” here (except for Larry Berwald’s slide guitar work on “Autumn Ashes”). It’s just hard working, creative, song-serving, solid performances and honest tones, meandering through the back roads of Anytown, USA. Organ sounds are spot on, piano parts are tasty and expertly placed, while the rhythm section leads you into chorus after chorus like some great Faces or Wallflowers album.
This is a mature album and exceeds local standards, on many levels. It’s the kind of work that you feel “money well spent,” one that will reside in your playlists until it’s time for the band’s next. Stand out songs for me are “Moving On,” “The Cure” and “My Greatest Collapse” (a lyrical honeypot). “Ballad of Chet Wilson”—it’s not a song, it’s a damn anthem and one that Little Steven wishes he sang harmonies on. Fans of Jakob Dylan, Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers, Whiskeytown, Bright Eyes and DBT will bask in the glow of Thief & Love. By the close of the album, the blinking fluorescent office light had stopped; my eyes had been closed enjoying this journey.