Howlin Rain - Live Rain - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Howlin Rain - Live Rain

by Rob Taylor Rating:7 Release Date:2014-04-28

San Francisco Bay Area outfit Howlin Rain, with singer/guitarist Ethan Miller at the helm, showcase some live material on their latest offering, Live Rain. The band released their third album The Russian Wilds in 2012, and this release has live performances extracted from the support tour.

Howlin Rain are authentic 70s, long-form, classic rock revivalists, and embrace a Southern rock sound which never seeks to subvert the form but rather celebrate it warts and all. Which is either a blessing or a curse, depending of course on your tolerance of the style’s staple FM rock foundations. Perhaps this is why on initial listen, the warm familiarity of the music felt to me a little undercooked. Sometimes, though, you have to recognise your own prejudices and try to open new pathways to formerly unpreferred listening experiences.  

Howlin Rain are a band best heard loud and live in performance. To an extent, the experience is largely replicated here, and in the spirit of the band’s endeavours, I found some private space so I could amplify the bejesus out of the recording, consigning my kids to another hour of Minecraft in the family room.
The music then connected in a manner more cathartic and less cerebral, which is the whole point of this music, and its intended reach. That is, sometimes you gotta wig out. If the lyrics did at times cloyingly reference the worst of the 70s stadium rock , the extended jams and guitar breaks were more emphatically successful. The affect is akin to the momentary suspension of time experienced while gazing into the headlights of an oncoming car. Mesmerising and all encompassing.

Unfortunately, and somewhat unusually given the length of the tracks, the segues into blissed-out psychedelia never last long enough. The vocal harmonies are technically impressive, but aurally tepid in some instances. 

Reference points are numerous - Lynyrd Skynrd, The Black Crowes, Black Sabbath, forgive me but maybe even America and The Eagles in the vocal parts. Comparisons can, however, be odious. Howlin Rain are great musicians, and well worth the live ticket. Whet your appetite with this recording.

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