Release Date: Apr 29, 2014
Record label: Agitated
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Neo-Psychedelia, Hard Rock, Boogie Rock
Ethan Miller's Howlin' Rain has issued several live offerings in the past, either directly from his blog or in various limited editions on various labels. Live Rain was compiled from several performances on 2012's The Russian Wilds tour, and features the same lineup that appeared on that album: Miller on lead vocals and guitar, Isaiah Mitchell (Earthless) on guitar, bassist Cyrus Comiskey (Drunk Horse), and drummer Raj Ojha. "Phantom in the Valley," "Self-Made Man," "Can't Satisfy Me Now," and "Beneath Wild Wings" all appeared on that record, and they comprise the first four selections here.
Firmly placed in the classic rock sound of the ‘70s, San Francisco quintet Howlin Rain blend a love of mind shattering thunderous rock with screeching guitar solos that many fans believe is captured best in a live setting. About time, then, that they unleashed a live recording, the double LP Live Rain becoming the first such offering some 10 years after their formation. Originally a side project of singer/guitarist Ethan Miller as he veered away from the psych-rock of his main band Comets On Fire, Howlin Rain developed into something more honed after the chaotic freeform of Comets but even then, there was little in the way of distinct melodies with much of their studio output turning into self indulgent electric guitar meanderings.
Howlin’ Rain was once a more straight-ahead side project during Ethan Miller’s time in the chaotic psych-rock group Comets on Fire. But now the band is a full-on rock force. Long admired for its live show, the band captures that experience here on the hour-plus Live Rain set. Listening to the blistering classic-rock epics in the collection—like the swamp jams of “Self Made Man” or the soulful crunch of “Lord Have Mercy”—you can see why this might be a thrill to see.
In an age of instant downloads and gratification, phones filming the slightest movement of a band at a gig and uploaded in minutes, and live recordings released as either digital EPs or merely an advert for your favourite digital store, the stock of the live album has certainly plummeted in recent years and you really have to question who, in their right mind, would bother putting one out now. And yet, if any band was made for the live album, then Howlin Rain are it. Often derided by detractors as throwbacks in thrall to a distant time of pot and patchouli and the redemptive power of classic rawk firing on all cylinders against a backdrop of the three-day week, Howlin Rain's M.O.