Under The Wheels: Live From The Coasts, Volume 1
Silver Current Records
Oakland-based, jam-band favorites Howlin Rain debuted on the music scene in 2006 with their first album, Howlin Rain. Through several lineup changes the band would go on to release four more albums, but the one constant member has been frontman/singer/guitarist Ethan Miller. Rounding out the tight group is guitarist Dan Cervantes, bassist Jeff McElroy and drummer Justin Smith. Miller decided to begin a live series of releases on his own label as a way to connect the fan base and the live performances. They chose some favorite selections from their live East and West Coast shows spanning 2018 to 2019. While the record only has five tracks, they are meaty, lengthy cuts that easily rival any arena rock sound of the 1970s. Swirling with the best psychedelic elements of blues, rock, funk and soul, the influence of groups such as The Allman Brothers Band, The Grateful Dead, Free/Bad Company and even Three Dog Night can be heard clearly throughout these tracks.
Kicking off strong with “To The Wind,” an epic ten and a half-minute Allmans-esque jam that vacillates between subdued and frenetic, Miller and Cervantes could easily be compared to Duane Allman and Dickey Betts. Following on its heels is “Missouri,” an anthemic Three Dog Night-ish cut off The Alligator Bride (2018) that showcases Miller’s strong, appealing vocals and features blistering guitar. Both live tracks were recorded at Oakland, California’s Starline Ballroom on August 2, 2018.
Throwing it back to their eponymous debut with the eight and a half-minute scorcher, “Death Prayer In Heaven’s Orchard,” the band once again takes you on a frenzied axe ride compliments of some killer slide. This one was recorded at Union Pool in Brooklyn, New York on July 28, 2018.
Adding some funky grooves into the mix with “Goodbye Ruby” (Magnificent Fiend 2008) recorded at The Echo in Los Angeles, California on January 1, 2019, there is a true display of the band’s musical versatility.
Closing it out is their 13-minute opus, “Coming Down” (The Alligator Bride 2018), an aural treasure that allows itself to build slowly from a melodic ballad into a searing guitar masterpiece including a discernible hint of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir.”
Howlin Rain’s larger-than-life, arena rock sound, by all accounts, is something to experience indeed. The beauty of the improvisational jam band concert is that no two shows ever sound the same and the band members don’t even always know where they are going (a la The Allman Brothers Band and The Grateful Dead). But the audience gets to go along for the ride, which is a beautiful thing. To capture only a fraction of their live sound is an incredible feat but they have done so brilliantly on this record. Look for Volume 2 to be released some time this fall, but in the meantime buy a copy of Volume 1 on LP, cassette or digital download and hear for yourself the dynamic appeal of Howlin Rain.