Howlin Rain: Magnificent Fiend
Much in the same way that Wolfmother, Black Stone Cherry and Rose Hill Drive reach back a generation for inspiration, so too does Howlin Rain’s Ethan Miller. The irony is he also reaches sideways to his other band, the psychedelic Comets on Fire, and the tangents between those two bands are starting to blur and converge. I much prefer this side of the fence, but than again I’m not scared by engineers who turn Joel Robinow’s organ up as loud as it can go when he starts going crazy. (Little known fact: rock bands don’t need more cowbell, they need more organ). It doesn’t rain on this album, but Miller does do some howlin, even calling God out when “Lord Have Mercy” switches gears mid-song, although he even lets his inner Curtis Mayfield fly in “El Rey”.
It’s a hybrid of the dreamy, jammy 60s San Francisco sound (Quicksilver, Dead) and the funkier, more soulful Southeast country-blues sound of the Allman Brothers. (The twin guitar lines in “Calling Lightning Pt.2” are cross-eyed kin of “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed”). Aside from the opening “Requiem” no song falls short of the five minute barrier, but there are only seven tracks. Hey, if you’re going to throw back to the 70s, a forty-five minute album is the right way to do it. You don’t even have to get up halfway, stumble to the turntable and flip it over. Now that’s progress!