Steve Bonham and the Long Road are known for their intricately devised compositions, and the group’s latest single “The Girl With the Rattlesnake Heart” just might be their most stylish tour de force yet. A blues song wrapped in folkie harmonies, “The Girl With the Rattlesnake Heart” has all the hallmarks of a radio-ready single without any of the annoying polish that would ultimately quash its authentic groove. The guitars are oaky and reverberate as if we’re in the studio with Steve Bonham and his troubadours, and the drums shove their way through the arrangement as if to assert their dominance over the direction of the harmonies. There’s no debating that this single is an amplified rendition of the band’s most stirring qualities, but it does much more than merely elevate Steve Bonham’s unique persona to the primetime.
“The Girl With the Rattlesnake Heart” is metaphorical lyrically, but its self-awareness is limited to the scope of Bonham’s own cerebral narrative, not that of the listeners. This song doesn’t try to relate to us on some artificial level; it presents us with Bonham’s words from his perspective and refutes the tired concept of placing us in his shoes. The Long Road creates a rousing backing track to facilitate his prose, but our focus is constantly drawn back to his execution, which is well timed and relentlessly physical. Steve Bonham is a storyteller in the truest sense of the term, and in this single he doesn’t back away from experimenting with his evolving style of attack.
The guitar play in this song is patient and contrasts with the gallop of Bonham’s singing, which drives the soul of the track but doesn’t define its signature melody. The strings are charged with that task, and they accomplish it seemingly without any difficulty. The vocals are searching through the atonal grind of the beat looking for some sense of the truth, which the guitar seems to have already found. As we listen to the tension building in Bonham’s voice, the guitar remains unfazed by everything that is happening and provides us with a beacon of consistency amongst the raging firestorm in the arrangement. I’m very interested to hear this song in a live setting, where the band could really cut loose and play with its flexible framework.
Steve Bonham and the Long Road’s “The Girl With the Rattlesnake Heart” is cohesively constructed from top to bottom and features an affectionately witty premise that makes it accessible to fans of the band both new and old. Compositionally this song doesn’t try to change the world around it, but it certainly ventures into corners of the folk music spectrum that most artists in Bonham’s position would be leery of exploring. Anyone who knows Steve Bonham knows that he never shrinks from a challenging adventure, and this single is a great example of his resolute attitude as an artist. Like the minstrels and versifiers of societies now long gone, he and the Long Road are continuing the tradition of making provocatively styled folk music for a world incapable of expressing its most powerful emotions through linguistics. Inarguably, “The Girl With the Rattlesnake Heart” solidifies this band as heavyweights in their medium.
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