Album Review – Rattlesnake Milk’s “Chicken Fried Snake”

Rattlesnake Milk from the southern plains of Texas is the musical truth. There is every single other artist and band in American music, and then there is Rattlesnake Milk. They are more country than all the other shit kicking bands out there darkening the stoops of the honky tonks. They are more punk than all the pungent-smelling tour vans full of spiked hair and mescaline criss-crossing the fruited plain. They are more surf, mod, and psyc than all the hipster bands strewn between Echo Park and Brooklyn. They are Rattlesnake Milk.

Everything that all the other bands in music frustratingly whiff on, Rattlesnake Milk hits dead center. With a simplified four-piece lineup, and no desire to elicit help from guest performers or overdubs, Rattlesnake Milk accomplishes with so little what so many other bands fail to accomplish with so much more. Burrowing down to the very kernel of soul and feeling, and leaving everything else to the side, they are an underground version of musical mastery.

The rest of the world might be waist deep in Christmas music and end-of-year lists here in mid December, but perhaps there isn’t a better time for this band to release a new record. Clear the decks and let everyone else get their little say so in 2022. Then let Rattlesnake Milk show them how it’s done, and resuscitate all of our hopes that there is still music out there that can remind us why we love music so much.

Chicken Fried Snake immediately takes you to a faraway scene on an Interstate exit somewhere in lonesome America, decades in the past, and at the stroke of midnight. As the diesels drone by on the highway, a lost soul stands in the doorway of a roadside motel, taking in the scene. Across the street, a honky tonk with a neon sign belches out jukebox music and bar chatter anytime someone enters or exits. At the truck stop across the way, a lot lizard scurries from a sleeper cab toward the restroom of a 24-hour diner serving stale coffee to a few scant customers. Meanwhile, the weight of forlornness hangs in the air in a way that’s almost too much for a soul to bear.

Chicken Fried Snake is a travelogue of sorts, spinning its tale through nine short stories, many from the road, and all of which might be intertwined if you listen intently enough. There’s a lady entertainer making her living on a road, a drug junkie looking for his next score, and a truck driver carrying a haul. But with Rattlesnake Milk, it’s not just the words. It’s how the music tells so much of the story too that makes it so rare. Masters of tone, space, and groove, every note is expertly chosen, and then placed within a haunting rhythm that is perfect for setting the mood.

It’s all led by lead singer and rhythm guitarist Lou Lewis, who isn’t some astounding singer, but knows exactly where to put the emphasis in a phrase to make the lyrics burst or ooze with emotion. Lead guitarist Andrew Chavez is the band’s ace-in-the-whole in how he brings such taste and storytelling to his solos. And drummer Corey Alvarez, and bassist Eric Pawlick, they’re buy-in to the sound of Rattlesnake Milk makes the music so organic and alive, even though its greatest selling point is how understated it is.

Like Booker T and the MG’s, or The Animals when they stepped into the studio to record “House of the Rising Sun,” everything aligns perfectly for these fellas, and the genius is in the simplicity of their approach. What Rattlesnake Milk does would have been relevant 50 years ago. It’s also the most relevant music to today, and it will be relevant 50 years from now. While most everyone else in music is simply posturing for each other or emulating trends picked up from others, Rattlesnake Milk has picked up on something wholly unique, but eerily familiar all at the same time.

Completely underground and outright repulsed at the idea of popularity, you have to happen upon Rattlesnake Milk to find them. Lucky for you, you just did.

Two Guns Up (9/10)

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