Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Rock CD Review : “The Russian Wilds” Howlin Rain


The Russian Wilds

This one fell through the cracks, bad MP3 download, lost media in the mail, a trip to the hospital and my dog ate it….I know, I don’t have a dog but you don’t know that…anyway it is powerful enough to have clawed its way back up and that is a very good thing. Howlin Rain is the power quintet that calls San Francisco home they play a bluesy heroically conceived and executed type of rock music that some have consigned to the golden ages of yore. Recorded at the historic Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, the pedigree is there and toss in  uber-producer Rick Rubin and make the band an off shoot of new-psych innovators Comets On Fire and all the ingredients are there…and here it is, a sprawling, extravagant, Pynchon-esque  emotion packed feeling-filled catalyst for hungry minds.

Led by singer-guitarist Ethan Miller the result is a melodic masterpiece of bombastic rock; a kind of Electric Ladyland, meets Gaucho and two-times it with Darkness On The Edge of Town, its got grooves like Steely Dan if Felix Cavaliere had sung lead with them (with some horns back there too) and long, blues jams of Ladyland and the vocals are in your face and belted out there like The Boss although the voices hark back to the arena rockers of the ‘70s/’80s. Throw in some surreal psychedelic meandering keys and effects and you have The Russian Wilds.

Howlin Rain

Howlin Rain comprises Raj Ojha (drums, percussion), Cyrus Comiskey (bass), Joel Robinow (keyboards, guitar, vocals) and Isaiah Mitchell (guitar, vocals) and the aforementioned Miller leading the unit. Clearly a classic rock inspired band but to differentiate themselves from the myriad array of classic rock bar bands populating the great American wilds they  stretch and reshape the sound to more arcane and ambitious ends. The results are a  unique aural treat that expresses the fantastical and the practical in equal measure, resonating quite nicely with the work of kindred spirits such as Chris Robinson Brotherhood , et al.

These guys would have been a welcome addition to venues such as the Fillmore and Winterland  with their song-centric psych-touched, emotionally charged boogie and blues. Jefferson Airplane would have sounded right at home next to them, CCR, Quick Silver Messenger Service, Blues Magoos, you get the idea… and they carry that torch of the great bay area bands that put the San Francisco Sound into the vernacular of the great American listening public.

Howlin Rain Teaser

They even add a soul groove reminiscent of early funk masters from neighboring Oakland. This come through in the pinch of blue-eyed soul and a penchant for deep soulful grooves that conger the Steely Dan/Felix Cavaliere moments. The vocals, despite at first conjuring arena rock, are on a closer examination surprisingly sophisticated and melodic. Miller’s a blues shouter, ala Robert Plant on the early Zeppelin offerings but he bends and harnesses his voice to the backing support of the rest of the band to great effect.

Howlin Rain has performed at major festivals in the U.S. (Bonnaroo, Outside Lands, Bumbershoot) and in Europe (Green Man, All Tomorrow’s Parties, Azkena), and has toured with The Black Crowes, Queens of the Stone Age, and Black Mountain, as well as sharing bills with Mudhoney, Roky Erickson, Terry Reid, Okkervil River and The Meat Puppets. After their period of intense woodshedding over these past few years, Howlin Rain is looking forward to seeing this new music blossom on concert stages around the world!


Rubin worked closely with Ethan for over a year and a half as he shaped and perfected the material being written for The Russian Wilds. Finally, the band entered the studio with producer-engineer Tim Green (The Fucking Champs, Nation of Ulysses), tracking at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, as well as at Trilogy Studios and Hyde Street in San Francisco, recording most of the overdubs at Green's Louder Studios in SF, where Tim mixed the album with crucial input from Rick.

The band is currently playing a few gigs in the Bay area before embarking on a UK & European Tour. Check their web site for more information. You can also follow the band on Facebook, Twitter and their YouTube Channel. it’s a pleasure to hear a band with this much talent still making classic rock, and with an original flare.


The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2012 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

  • Audio CD (February 14, 2012) Original Release Date: 2012 Number of Discs: 1 Label: COLUMBIA / DMZ ASIN: B006MVG9RO review Copy Supplied by SIDEWAYS MEDIA 

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