Recommended Concerts: Howling Rain with Mountain Movers (July 22)

Sunday at MOTR Pub

click to enlarge Howling Rain - PHOTO: KRISTY WALKER
Photo: Kristy Walker
Howling Rain

Nearly 20 years ago, guitarist/vocalist Ethan Miller co-founded Comets on Fire, a raucous SoCal Psych/Garage Rock quintet with a mile-wide experimental streak and a cultishly fervent fan base. Although the band checked all the right boxes for new millennium noisemongers, Miller ultimately wanted to explore a sound rooted in Classic Rock melodicism and traditions. To that end he formed Howlin Rain, a side project that quickly eclipsed its parent band in terms of exposure and acceptance.

The earliest incarnation of Howlin Rain featured Miller’s high school bandmate Ian Gradek and drummer John Moloney, the lineup responsible for the band’s eponymous debut in 2006. Thereafter, Howlin Rain was something of a revolving door affair with Miller as the only constant, which may explain the consistency of the band’s swampy Psych/Blues sound over the past dozen years. 

By the band’s sophomore album, 2008’s Magnificent Fiend, Howlin Rain had expanded to a quintet, which is how it remained through two additional EPs and a third album, 2012’s The Russian Wilds. When the band came off the road touring the album, Miller opted out of his contract with Rick Rubin’s American Recordings and the group effectively dissolved.

In 2014, Miller independently dropped Live Rain, the aptly titled live album culled from various shows on the Russian Wilds circuit, which served as a stopgap release until he could map out his strategy going forward. He assembled a set of studio players to represent Howlin Rain and released the uneven but still powerful Mansion Songs in 2015; Miller identified the album in the accompanying publicity materials as the first volley in a proposed trilogy of albums.

In the interim, Miller put together a new Howlin Rain lineup — guitarist Dan Cervantes, bassist Jeff McElroy and drummer Justin Smith — and created his own label, Silver Current, to release their sixth and perhaps best album to date, the brilliantly rough and tumble The Alligator Bride, which hit the streets early last month. By all accounts, the freshly energized Howlin Rain has given the new album a scorching presentation on its latest tour circuit, with Miller and his new cohorts sounding like stall-kicking thoroughbreds. This is one summer storm that will be completely welcomed. 

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