Howlin Rain has always made their bed with the prospect of bending staples of ‘70s rock radio to the whims of something wilder – a dial that’s more psychedelic and free. While they dash through territories left vacant by Steppenwolf, Crazy Horse, Humble Pie, and The Band, in a post-radio world where influences seep in through deep dives and algorithmic suggestion they’re picking at bits of the fringe like Fat, Mighty Baby or Josephus as well. They dress shades of unrestrained early ‘70s Dead in heavier boots, whiskeying up their acid runs with the grit of Southern Rock. Ahead of quite a few other contenders this year, Howlin’ Rain is leading the edge of Cosmic Americana – pure and easy as a Sunday bar-b-que on the surface, but with a glint of madness in their eyes. The band is equal parts block party and bike club bonfire and that’s what makes The Alligator Bride burn so bright.
Perhaps spurred on by another fire eater project from Miller in the form of Feral Ohms, the core of Howlin’ Rain hasn’t felt this ragged in years. The past two albums in particular sanded the rough edges that marked early Rain, focusing on the tender blues beneath the tumult, but with The Alligator Bride we see Miller and co. back to the business of distilling lightning into choogle. The record is propelled by the bass in a way that rock hasn’t tapped into since Grand Funk and The James Gang shuttered their stores. Buoyed by the groove, the record snakes through southern charms and country’s arms to find purchase on the banks of the Mississippi. It’s mud covered with a howling heart.
If Howlin Rain was conceived as the comedown, slow-simmer backing to Comets On Fire’s coin, then they’re working their way back towards the fire with this album. That melodic heart is kicking strong as ever and there’s rhythm in their blues – swingin’ in the ways that lead the Stones down to Alabama to find their own country soul. It’s what Howlin Rain does with that soul that takes their aesthetic from throwback to evolution though. There’s no shelter to give them because they’ve burnt down the barn and are eying the house. With The Alligator Bride the band have let the danger back into their sound and that flash of the knife is just what’s needed to draw blood.
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