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Andrew Adkins’ celebratory blues rock is a unique gift

Great songwriters are wordsmiths who color the world lush, binding us into a shared moment in time with one note, melody, refrain, and chorus at a time. It’s an undeniable gift few artists really possess, like Jason Isbell, Oliver Wood, and Andrew Adkins. Adkins’ Rattlesnake Motions is an immersive, classic blues rock experience that can’t be missed.

The grit and grind struts in via opener “Satellite Mind,” with its laid back, whistling-in-the-dark kind of vibe. It drifts right into the first single “Broken Fangs,” which seems to reinforce the shared horror story we have all lived through since B.C. (before COVID). To me, the video seemed weird and disjointed, yet it may be bringing to light the horror that many people of color live with all of the time. Who is the real villain, anyway? I would guess that Adkins suspects it is our perception of each other.

“Divided Lines” might be what the fearless would lead the parade of change with. A feel-good rag, somehow still calling out the truth. The grittier “Mysterious Engines” fleshes out with trippy synthesizers and driving bass. 

Sequencing becomes another piece of artistry in albums like Rattlesnake Motions. We are on a trip here, in the tradition of a cohesive piece of storytelling. Halfway through, “Beautiful and Free” rests easily on the soul, a contrast to the imagery that blasts in with “Death Rattles” and its funky spoken word throwdown. Does everyone have the same chance to experience life in the United States, or is it really about the color of your skin, where you come from, or what you believe? Brilliant! 

“Quebrado” punctuates with a multitude of instrumentation in its message of excess. Audiophiles should relish plugging this trip into headphones for a sonic escape. The horns, guitar, and group vocals of “Into Dust” embrace the soul. Jarred back to some other reality, “Whites Creek Rose” rolls on with a frighteningly familiar country twang that feels a bit like a Stephen King short story. Go figure. 

Heading out, “The Explosions In My Head” celebrates the shared trip we have all been on, so full of celebratory horns. “Random Cloud Patterns” might be one of my favorite songs of the year, like a warm hug from Mr. Rogers. Adkins’ real, authentic rich vocal tone reinforces what the lyrics of his album say: be yourself. —Lisa Whealy