Howlin' Rain - Self Titled Birdman Records by Keith Boyd
Ethan Miller, of Comets on Fire fame, plays it straight here and the results are amazing! Whereas the Comets are prone to pushing sound past most people's endurance, Howlin' Rain mines a mid-late 60's song vein and comes up with gold.
Some records have a personality. It's a combination of tone, melody, lyrics, and even artwork. They all come together and generate this "third mind" persona, and it's that, as much as the hit or two, that keeps people coming back for more. SunnO)))'s "Black One" is a strangled, leather-clad, alien demon riding a charred pirate ship to hell. King Crimson's "Discipline" is the funky quantum mechanic, quarking in and out of our dimension while painting African masks. Howlin' Rain's self-titled release has the personality of a bandana-wearing, frisbee-catching dog running full bore through the ocean's surge. It has an upbeat, good-times charm that takes hold from the first note and never lets up.
Howlin' Rain is somewhat of a supergroup. As mentioned before, Ethan Miller is the lead singer and plays guitar in the maximalist, freak-power noise-merchants, "Comets on Fire." There is also John Malony, who plays drums in the ultra-wierd, yet wonderful, "Sunburned Hand of the Man." The sound they create together bears little resemblance to either of their other groups. I would make a comparison to "Surrealistic Pillow" era Jefferson Airplane. Further touchstones would include Moby Grape and perhaps The Small Faces.
This album has such a wonderful tone and listenability that it seems to go by all too fast. In these days of mega-studios with digital this and that, Howlin' Rain seems to have been magically transported to a late 60's/early 70's recording session and soaked up all the tone. A warm organic texture cradles the listener's ear and lends a soulful pumping quality to the songs. The use of punchy horns on, "Roll on the Rusted Day" continues this soul-drenched, Mussel Shoals" atmosphere. The vocals are super throughout and sweet harmonies appear on most songs.
Howlin' Rain's debut is a winner. The songs are delightfully familiar with just enough of a sharp edge to keep us on our toes. I can imagine this blasting out of a car stereo at some clandestine rural keg party. Rack up another one for the freaky people! Check out an mp3 of Roll On the Rusted Days