“The Girl With the Rattlesnake Heart,” the new single by Steve Bonham and the Long Roads, is not a recreation of the British folk rock of yesteryear. In this song, audiences and critics alike are brought front and center to witness the deconstruction and reassembly of a band in real time. We listen as the strings find each other and connect within a single verse to form a structure for the track; we’re there as the percussion is born out of sheer intensity and the vocals come to life out of a sterling black void. Steve Bonham and the Long Roads have made some very thoughtful music in recent times, but they tap into a sublimely postmodern side of their collective personality in this single that is as thought provoking as it is spellbinding.
The music exposes itself from the start of the song as being unapologetically raw and unaffected by the trends of modern pop music. The rhythm bleeds through the percussion and is propelled by the stampeding melancholy being produced by the guitar. There’s a nod to the Delta blues in the swing, but it’s restricted by the countrified march of the beat. “The Girl With the Rattlesnake Heart” is as nimble as a snake but as volatile as a lover scorned; the temperamental harmony isn’t as threatening as it could be thanks to Bonham’s tender vocal, thus proving the concept behind the song’s design to be a solid one.
Production-wise, this single is a force to be reckoned with. Using nothing more than a gentle mix, the Long Road makes it possible for even the most analytical of music enthusiasts to appreciate all of the splendid detail within the instrumentation, which is tight and focused to say the least. For being as reckless in tone as it is, “The Girl With the Rattlesnake Heart” is actually very elegant in its presentation. The packaging is slick and the narrative isn’t obscured by the music at all, which isn’t always a sure thing with indie tracks that are as creatively ambitious as this one is.
There’s an insistence in the percussion that makes the pace of the song feel much faster than the tempo really is, but it’s a welcomed shot of adrenaline as far as I’m concerned. The menacing element in this song is its contrasting vocal/guitar dynamic that comes straight out of alternative folk but isn’t directly tied to punk rock or its ethos. The bucolic sway of the strings is destroyed by the beat intentionally, and as a result we end up with a song that is defiantly rock-friendly as opposed to willfully isolated by the boundaries of traditional folk music.
Excitingly volatile is one way to put it, but there’s no getting around the fact that “The Girl With the Rattlesnake Heart” is a seductive slice of experimental folk magic that few acoustic aficionados would disagree with. I simply love the way that Bonham channels the blues in this song without actually washing the track in 12-bar repetitiveness. The maturely crafted lyrics demand a reaction from us just as much as the Long Road’s instrumentation does, which doesn’t just make this track a well-balanced effort – it makes it a fully realized encapsulation of the band’s persona. Steve Bonham continues to assert himself as a master in his medium with this latest single, and I’m impressed by how far he’s come as a recording artist.
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