Release Date: Jan 27, 2015
Record label: Easy Sound
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
According to Ethan Miller, Howlin' Rain's founder, frontman, and only constant member, Mansion Songs is the first recording in what is conceived as a trilogy. This is not a concept recording per se; there is no set narrative, but there is a trajectory. In his own words, he "...wanted to track the journey from nothingness back to creation in musical form in a set of three albums and rock bottom was the perfect place to start from." While that reads lofty bordering on pretentious, these eight songs -- recorded with a revolving cast of musicians (most prominently Meg Baird in a variety of roles, including drummer and backing vocalist) and co-producer Eric Bauer -- are anything but.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. Ethan Miller's had a pretty tough time of it lately, following the release of The Russian Wilds things have been a little rough for Howlin' Rain. If you've heard this before feel free to skip ahead but if not, pick up a seat. Recently, Howlin' Rain became a one man band, left their record label and had no obvious path.
Howlin Rain's Mansion Songs opens with unabashed, chilling a cappella vocals courtesy of frontman Ethan Miller. It's pitchy and raw, yet self-assured and poetic: “Your head goes up like a cheap cigar as you crawl the ghetto alleys and the skid row bars,” he sings on “Big Red Moon. ” The band comes in with sudden authority, highlighted by fuzzy slide guitar and a rhythm section filled with the swampy flavors of Creedence Clearwater Revival.
Indie rock outlet Howlin’ Rain’s latest release—and the first of a trilogy, according to frontman Ethan Miller—opens with nothing more than a little over 50 seconds of his own raw, bone-stingingly haunting vocals. A melancholy affair, Miller paints a nostalgic picture reflecting the days of roots rock gone by, imperfectly crooning “I’ve got $15 in my hand / If you gotten, we’ll be kinsmen to the stars. ” When he hits the first unabashedly excoriated “Big Red Moon”, the band kicks in, inflecting the opening track of the same name with a poignant swampy flavor reminiscent of a Creedence Clearwater Revival a-side.
To hear Ethan Miller tell it, Howlin Rain hit rock bottom after leaving American Recordings, a brief tenure that produced only one album, 2012’s non-starter The Russian Wilds, and nearly destroyed the band. The line-up dissolved, and Miller was left more or less where he started, the lone Raindrop trying to keep the band moving along. Following last year’s Live Rain, which sounded less like a tour document than an exorcism, Mansion Songs is intended to signal a rebirth: Miller worked with co-producer Eric Bauer in San Francisco, using a variety of musicians rather than a concrete band roster.