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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December 16, 2022 @ 8:58 am
They’re mystique somehow makes them better. This is the first time I’ve even read the names of the guys in the band.
December 16, 2022 @ 9:24 am
Listening to Social Distortion while reading this and got excited. They are not Social D. Will have to give it another listen later on with tempered expectations.
December 16, 2022 @ 9:30 am
I wouldn’t put these guys in the same category as a “punk gone country” Social Distortion sound. The punk element comes in more with their approach than their sound, if that makes sense.
December 16, 2022 @ 9:29 am
Thanks for putting me on. Goddamn this album rules
Jerry Clower's Ghost
December 16, 2022 @ 9:55 am
This band has their own distinct sound that’s cemented after this second album release. I have loved everything this group has put out there. More underground country please.
December 16, 2022 @ 9:58 am
Love these guys. While all the rest seem to be fighting over what stadium to play in I will be going to whatever bar they will be playing in. Great stuff.
December 16, 2022 @ 10:21 am
Never heard of them but love this. The music reminds me of Way Out West by Marty Stuart.
December 16, 2022 @ 11:23 am
Is it too late for album of the year considerations?
December 16, 2022 @ 1:19 pm
Gonna add it as an Album of the Year nominee and re-promote the nominees on social media.
December 16, 2022 @ 11:31 am
I am really enjoying this. Thanks for the write up.
December 16, 2022 @ 12:34 pm
More Trigger news that I’m running on . . . . FANTASTIC sound! Thanks, Trigger!
December 16, 2022 @ 12:35 pm
I loved the last record. Looking forward to this one. Tied for highest rating of the year?
Wilson Pick It
December 16, 2022 @ 1:42 pm
It’s astounding how much good stuff is down in the Minor Leagues, flying under the radar. Like Rattlesnake Milk for example. Probably not doing themselves any favors with a December release, but maybe they don’t care. They just do their thing, wherever and whenever the Muse strikes. And it’s solid. If the music is good, people will find it.
December 17, 2022 @ 10:18 am
Music is much like hockey, it is just more exciting in the minor leagues.
December 16, 2022 @ 1:46 pm
More fantastic stuff I’d have never heard of if not for SCM. would it be possible to get a direct link in the articles to Spotify, apple music, or Amazon music with these fantastic bands and album reviews in the future?
December 16, 2022 @ 3:21 pm
Normally I will put links to where folks can buy physical copies, usually the artist’s website or Bandcamp, and/or Amazon. Unfortunately, this title is not available in physical form, at least not yet. I may start doing streaming links in the new year.
December 16, 2022 @ 3:53 pm
Drop the vocals an octave and it’s a hillbilly Dire Straits. Cool stuff.
December 16, 2022 @ 4:07 pm
The guitar work on “.38 Special” damn sure conjured up Mark Knopfler’s beautifully evocative work on the first Dire Straits album for me.
December 17, 2022 @ 10:35 am
Now that’s a strong selling point!
December 17, 2022 @ 10:50 am
There’s a little Doors-iness in the approach too. The guitar work on here is gorgeous. This is my album of the year.
December 16, 2022 @ 4:40 pm
They are the second best 4-piece band. You know who is the #1 from me.
And RM is new to me. But not for long. This is fantastic.
December 17, 2022 @ 5:27 pm
December 16, 2022 @ 4:50 pm
This review and the comments made me really excited to check out this album, and it certainly seems like something that would be right up my alley. I wasn’t grabbed after my first listen so I’m going to spin it a few more times and see if it clicks.
December 17, 2022 @ 7:03 am
Their last album is just as good, so try that one out if you want to..
December 16, 2022 @ 5:33 pm
Sounds like something from a tarentino soundtrack
December 16, 2022 @ 8:03 pm
These guys are fucking awesome. Glad you turned me on to them with the review of the last album.
December 16, 2022 @ 11:25 pm
HELL YESSSSSSSSS GET SOME
December 17, 2022 @ 12:06 am
Awesome album. The style, the gutar playing, the drumming, the voice. My new fave!
December 17, 2022 @ 6:36 am
These guys are great, loved their first album and this one is awesome!
And Trigger, your review of it is so well written, you may want to consider this as a career!
December 17, 2022 @ 7:02 am
Been praising this band for years.
This album delivers like Hanukkah ‘98!!!!
December 17, 2022 @ 7:38 am
“Lead guitarist Andrew Chavez is the band’s ace-in-the-whole in how he brings such taste and storytelling to his solos.”
When I first started listening to the 38 Special sample my first impression was I didn’t think I was going to like it. However, the guitar playing kept me listening on longer than I expected. I think Trigger hit it on the head here. It the guitar work of Chavez that elevates this into something more interesting with its kind of 60s psychedelic reverb filled sound.
Going to have to check out the rest of the album now.
December 19, 2022 @ 5:39 pm
You mentioned the guitar work on this. Yes, I agree, a lot of reverb. And for that matter, echo delay. Also, they play in minor keys which of course are perfectly suited to those sounds. If folks like that style, I recommend checking out all the early Chris Isaak albums which featured James Calvin Wilsey on guitar. Wilsey or Cal as Chris called him, played exactly in that style, LOADS of lush reverb, echo, delay and vibrato bar technique and the semi frequent use of tremelo. Usually minor key as well. Honestly, listening to Rattlesnake Milk I came to the conclusion that this dude has to be a fan of Cal Wilsey, its such a replication of his style.
December 19, 2022 @ 6:38 pm
Can’t say I was a huge fan of Isaak back then, but I did like some of the guitar riffs in his music. Kinda a take on a Beach Boys type vibe. Never knew who the guitarist was though. Good comparison.
December 17, 2022 @ 7:40 am
Wow can’t believe I’ve been missing out on these guys. Definitely a contender for album of the year for me. Thanks Trig!
December 17, 2022 @ 8:37 am
I know I’ve said this before Trig, but you’re murder on my wallet. I read a lot of music websites, but SCM is the only one that convinces me to go out and buy records. Much appreciated.
December 17, 2022 @ 11:26 am
Really digging this album! Will be listening to their other stuff now as well. Thanks Trigger!
December 17, 2022 @ 5:25 pm
Somewhere in my journey I’ve come across them as I was already following them on Spotify. Whatever I listened to before was enough to follow them but I don’t recall what I heard. I ended up hitting play on the videos that you had embedded and was actually blown away by it. So far I’ve listened to the album at least 5 times.
I couldn’t help but think they sounded familiar. After awhile it dawned on me. For anyone that has heard the psychedelic stoner rock band All Them Witches (currently part of the New West Records family), Rattlesnake Milk is what they would sound like if they were a country band.
December 18, 2022 @ 9:09 am
Thank you for the recommendation.
Echoes of pre stadium era Dire Straits and the groove of JJ Cale. Brilliant stuff that would not have graced by Lancashire, UK, ears without this review.
Your intro led me to expect “hard” country. Seems more influenced by country and lots more, than country per se. Not that genre matters, it’s brilliant!!
December 19, 2022 @ 6:00 pm
Damn just missed in time for Album of the Year. Isn’t this the best score so far in 2022. And I LOVE this sound. It got some John Hiatt, Tom Waits, Chris Isaak late 80s early 90s feel to me… Even Dire Straits a bit.
December 19, 2022 @ 6:07 pm
It’s been added as an Album of the Year nominee.
The Other Wayne
December 19, 2022 @ 7:04 pm
I like this a lot. I definitely see the Dire Straits / 80s roots rock influence that others have mentioned; the guitar in the opening of “.38 Special” also reminds me a lot of the Dead’s “West LA Fadeaway.” The guitar work also brings to mind some bands out of the modern Australian psychedelic rock scene like The Murlocs, or even a slower, softer take on the “spaghetti western rock” of King Gizzard’s “Eyes Like The Sky.” “Chicken Fried Snake” appeals to both my tastes in country and rock, and I’ll definitely be checking out these guys’ past albums soon!
December 23, 2022 @ 9:13 am
Thanks for the recommendation – another great underground (under the radar anyway) band I would never have known about if I didn’t follow this site. Some of the guitar reminds me of The Cadillac Hitmen (TriState …recording), also Blue Oyster Cult (yes, I’m serious) – the cut Last Days Of May on their 1st or 2nd lp. Anyway, these guys are great.
December 23, 2022 @ 1:10 pm
I got to the 2nd song and I was looking for Vinyl. Can’t stop listening to this sweet bastard
December 23, 2022 @ 3:54 pm
This album is one of those nocturnal masterpieces that have a dark magic all their own. It’s also a road album, where you can just hear the low horizon, the wide-open highway. And man, that guitar! It really does speak, reinforcing the story the vocal tells with its reverb. It wails, it moans, it laments, it does whatever you need it to do as long as it’s in a minor key. I agree that this is deserving of the SCM AOTY can without trying to be.
December 23, 2022 @ 4:58 pm
I also love the cover.
January 28, 2023 @ 11:03 am
Vinyl pre-orders are being taken for a March 1st release: https://fsgprints.com/collections/fsg-records-website-9-2022-al/products/rattlesnake-milk-chicken-fried-snake-pre-order-lp
January 28, 2023 @ 1:35 pm
Thanks for the heads up.