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Howlin' Rain

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Album Review

Howlin Rain is the psychedelic country/garage rock side project of Comets on Fire guitarist Ethan Miller with Sunburned Hand of the Man drummer John Moloney and bassist Ian Gradek — described as an "iron worker." If sunshine visions of a West Coast acid-drenched flannel-garbed truck-stop confab hanging out and letting it rip are your thing, then this one's for you. For a defining moment, one need not go any further than "Calling Lightning with a Scythe." While the cut opens with strolling banjos and shuffling drums as acoustic and electric guitars gurgle in a midtempo country ramshackle choogle, the tension begins to build until about three minutes in, when the laid-back hedonism gives way first to empty space and detuned slide guitars that explode a few seconds later into pure squalling psych overload guitar chaos — as the acoustics continue to strum the melody, of course. If anything, this music reminds one of the greatest country-fried moments of Tucson's Giant Sand, but drenched in post-rock humidity. There's also a bit of the Grateful Dead in here, but make it the Dead of the American Beauty tour — guys who still understood what rock & roll was instead of noodling themselves to death. Miller's a ragged-as-hell lead singer, but it works splendidly for this material. These songs are loose and shambolic but well crafted; other favorites are "The Hanging Heart" and "Indians, Whores and Spanish Men of God." The overall feel is a bit reckless but utterly lyrical. This isn't alt-country; it's dope-fueled country-rock — perfect for the acid folk generation who like their genres mixed up — produced by the band and engineered by Comets on Fire boardman Tim Green, with sax on a few cuts played by Tim Daly (who guests regularly with the Comets). This is rough, woolly, and utterly hummable music that wears its mange proudly but not pretentiously. Howlin Rain's debut is rather timeless. It feels like it could have come from anywhere in any present rock era and that's one of its strengths. In five or ten years you'll still be scratching your head as to why it sounds both so timely and dated. Highly recommended.

Customer Reviews

Yes Please, more please.

I don't even know how to categorize this music, so I won't even bother trying. It's got the best parts of a bunch of styles all mixed together without sounding like they were trying too hard (Country Rock/Tom Petty/Steve Miller with a little folk and indie thrown in). It sounds like the Grateful Dead with restraint crossed with feedback and guitar wig outs with out there vocals on top. That being said, the iTunes review is right, this does have a timeless feel to it, in the sense that it could have been released any time since about 1970. This would be ideal road trip music for winding scenic country with the windows down on a sunny day. Definitely recommended


Formed: 2004 in Oakland, CA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Unapologetically influenced by the strong but easygoing grooves of West Coast '70s rock, Howlin Rain represented something of a change of pace for guitarist and singer Ethan Miller, who previously fronted the psychedelic noise rock ensemble Comets on Fire. After the recording of Comets on Fire's final album, Avatar, in 2006, Miller was eager to explore the more melodic direction the group had begun pursuing, and with bassist Ian Gradek (who had known Miller since high school) and drummer John Moloney...
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Howlin' Rain, Howlin Rain
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Customer Ratings

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