On paper, Howlin’ Rain—Ethan Miller (from California psychedelic punkeroos Comets on Fire) teaming up with John Maloney (leader of Boston’s improv collective Sunburned Hand of the Man)—seems like a sketchy situation. Both are heavy bros who share a love for ’70s rock where many beards sway, but sonically, I just thought they wouldn’t click. Well, with many huevos on my face and much more beer in my gut, I have to say we finally have the first open-windowed good-time jam of the season. Other than Harlem’s constantly sequestered Suntanama, I can’t think of another unit who straddle the fence so perfectly in being both studied and heartfelt in their choogling ways.
Sure, these guys have buckling shelves full of records by Help Yourself, Credence, Mountain Bus, etc. But their constant digestion of these sides has heaved something genuine. Take a track like “Roll on Rusted Days,” a song that sounds like an outtake from the second Poco record, rhapsodizing roughly beautiful days of whiskey and cocaine. In any other twentysomethings’ hands, this would come off like pandering dreamer bullshit, but here it’s the real thing, something that would sound perfect sandwiched between any of the easygoing hits you love to hear in your gold-tinted station wagon. Maloney’s drumming on “Show Business” reminds me of Mick Fleetwood’s simple, subtle stomp, and dig Ethan’s spot-on Terry Reid impersonation for “Indians, Whores and Spanish Men of God.” Howlin’ Rain’s reverent choice is golden, and I’m definitely giving them the four-finger salute for it.
Howlin’ Rain play the Mercury Lounge June 15.