Posts Tagged ‘Howlin Rain’

RSTB Best of 2018

So, it seems that 2018 is finally coming to an end. It’s been a hell of a year by most standards, but musically its been damn entertaining. Perhaps its fair that there’s some bright spot in all the chaos. Not to diminish the chaos, but when the negativity is at an all-pervasive fever pitch, its feels good to have something to hold onto. I’ll choose to remember 2018 as a banner year for music and for the birth of my second daughter rather than the year that page refresh politics threatened to give me an ulcer any day. Below are my favorite albums of the year, taking care to highlight some that might otherwise get forgotten. They’re in (quasi) alphabetical order with no other particular weight on the list. Keep your eyes out for a few more year-end features this week before I reset for the new year. As always, thanks for sticking with RSTB for these 12-odd years or so.

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Design Inspiration: Arik Roper

I mentioned before that I’m thrilled to get this feature back in motion and I can assure you there are some great entries on the schedule already. One such legend of the sleeve that inspired this series is Arik Roper. His sleeves are a high water mark for doom and metal and there are few today working in the field who muster the same kind of iconic connection between sleeve and album that Arik can. Like Roger Dean or Marcus Keef before him, his sleeves feel like the music contained within. Without even hearing a note, there’s a sense of how heavy, how dense and how life changing the music he’s designed for will be. In that regard, its great to have him sit down and catalog a few of the artists that helped him find his own vision.

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Mixtape: Goin’ West

Been a while since there was a mixtape up, but these things take time and tenderness. For the latest mixtape I’m taking some inspiration from 2018’s slide towards Cosmic Americana. With albums from One Eleven Heavy, Garcia People, Howlin’ Rain, New Parents and Wet Tuna leading the charge back towards ’71-’72 I though it might be in order to round up some of those West Coast sounds that hit on resonant frequencies to the new crop of smooth players. While most, if not all, have already pledged allegiance to their own favorite boots of The Dead and there’s a communal love for Royal Trux, Little Feat, Crazy Horse and Levon Helm, I thought I’d scoop up some outer-stream suggestions to fit the bill. Ok, sure, I’m cheating a bit with the Flying Burrito inclusion, but despite a wealth of praise from any outlet that would let you listen, that one’s just a great song that fits the vibe.

Travel further down this roadmap of country-tinged, sun-soaked songs from ’69 on and feel the vibes slow down to a simmer for the end of summer. It’s not all West Coast -The Wizards from Kansas were actually from Kansas, Mountain Bus were from Chicago despite longing for the country – but each of these hits on that cosmic view of American psych that cropped up along the coast. It all winds down with one of the germs of the sound, The Charlatans’ “Alabama Bound,” a song that’s often been noted as being the proto-“Playing In The Band.” Artwork inspired by so many Grateful Dead bootlegs. Click below for tracklist and stream.

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Howlin Rain

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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Ethan Miller – Inspirations for Alligator Bride

There are a lot of great artists I’ve had on the wishlist for Hidden Gems but Ethan Miller has been hovering near the top for some time now. The psych vet’s been holding down time in a rogue’s gallery of great bands over the past few decades – Comets on Fire, Heron Oblivion, Feral Ohms, and Howlin’ Rain. The latter is back with their first album in three years and its one of their best yet. I finally snagged Ethan to run down a pick for Hidden Gems but he’d done me one better. In this special edition of the feature, the songwriter rounds up some deep cuts that inspired the direction for the upcoming Alligator Bride and he delves into their influence on his own writing. As expected there are quite a few nuggets from the ‘70s rock canon but also as many surprises in the running as well. Check out the picks and a playlist from Ethan below.

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