Very rarely do Grateful Dead fans and Comets on Fire fans mesh into one audience. The self-titled debut from Howlin' Rain (a trio that includes Ethan Miller from Comets on Fire on vocals and guitar, John Moloney of Sunburned hand of the Man on drums and percussion, and Ian Gradek on bass and banjo) allows such things to happen. It mixes elements of the late-'60s psychedelic jam-band scene with guitar tones that sound like the New Weird America collectives got a hold of some Crazy Horse records.
The songwriting varies from an old-time folk revival to Southern blues, never ceasing to decrease the energy -- leading to some solid dance-friendly (or hippie-wiggle-friendly) tunes. "Calling Lighting With a Scythe" perfects Wilco's formula from A Ghost is Born by melding an Americana underbelly with a fuzzed-out guitar raging over the top, and "Death Prayer in Heaven's Orchard" could have come right after "Estimated Prophet" on the Grateful Dead's Terrapin Station.
Howlin' Rain defines what a side project should be: Rather than creating the same music with a different collective of musicians, Miller leads this group into a territory that Comets on Fire wouldn't take the chance to venture into.
***"Roll on the Rusted Days" MP3
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