You can run, you can hide, but you won’t escape the droning dirge of Steve Bonham and the Long Road’s incredible new single “The Girl With the Rattlesnake Heart,” a vivid combination of simple folk rock song structure and magnetic blues-driven viciousness. We open with an earnest, small scale guitar lick that is harassed by an eager drumming that presses us into the heat of Bonham’s vocal. Bonham commands all of our attention with a familiar embrace in his voice, but there’s plenty of action going on to the left and right of him as the band occupies every inch of remaining space in the high definition audio. The tread is thick, deep and full of grinding tenacity as we plod through the first stanza and into the melancholic chorus, and yet we’re not becoming engulfed by the generously distributed bass.
Thanks to a light production that doesn’t meddle in the instruments’ powerful echo, we’re given full access to the organic groove being spit out by the band, and that makes “The Girl With the Rattlesnake Heart” not only a finely tuned slab of majestic folk, but a formidable glimpse into the inner-workings of one of the British underground’s most underrated acts today.
This single lives up to the high standards of what Bonham’s fans have come to expect out of the Long Road, and I would even go as far as to say that I think it might be a touch more refined and meticulous than his previous output. Everything has its place in this song, from the wild, uncaged melody that the guitars are belting out to the consistency in the drumming. The instruments, including Bonham’s vocal, explode in their own right but they never overlap nor overshadow one another. The levels modulate brilliantly, and you’d have to be some sort of genius with a soundboard to be able to replicate the mix they employ on the latter half of the song especially. The most disciplined aspect of this entire track is its immaculate production, which allows the Long Roads to get as crazy as they want in the studio without ever having to fear that their tonality is getting lost in translation (which can be a huge concern for any artist working without a major label budget).
“The Girl With the Rattlesnake Heart” is indulgent in all the right places, but best of all it embraces the eccentricities of its identity without ever apologizing for being an oddity in contemporary acoustic rock. By no means would I call this a track that owes something to the popular aesthetic of a scene or a genre, but it should be noted that Bonham does a lot to expand on the more straightforward themes of his past output, which has admittedly adhered more to the rulebook than this song does.
As a unit Steve Bonham and the Long Road use every weapon at their disposal here, and listeners are able to absorb every ounce of their labored efforts in just under four minutes without ever having to adjust the EQ on their stereo.
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