Friday, April 17, 2015

Howlin' Rain - Joy Classic -- Black Cat - Apr 16 2015

Joy Classic - It is a pleasure to see a twin guitar quartet actually have a fifth member on lead vocals, rather than resort to the overused strategy of having the guitarist or bassist with the least worst voice handle the vocals. The vocals are clear, dreamy and carry the songs as they should. This allows the guitars to work a clean treble area with some clever interplay. The rhythm section holds the bottom and keeps things rocking. My only criticism would be a tonal and tempo steadiness that can be a bit tedious over a 37 minute set. A few sonic jolts would be welcome, but that may come with continued writing. For now, this Baltimore band has a decent approach to showcase.
 reposted photo from Greg Gabrisch

Howlin' Rain - I have not seen Ethan Miller since a brilliant Comets on Fire set many, many years back in this same club. I have followed the albums and have enjoyed how he still had plenty of fire, but added a more west coast roots style to the core of the sound. I was a bit worried tonight as his last album was a stark outing, similar to Neil Young's 'Tonight's the Night' with light guitar and piano behind pained vocals. But from first note to last, this was more the classic wild west coast psychedelic hard rock ride with screaming guitars, bass lines, powerhouse drumming and Miller's vocal gymnastics that somehow stay on top of it all. There is great dynamic shifts and solid song structures at the core with plenty of room to jam and riff and just cut loose. I was in heaven pretty much the whole way here and I made it a point to listen to every band member who was highly skilled and locked in. I heard drumbeats that worked the snare on the expected beat and then went into extra shots that came 1 1/2 beats later, consistently every time. The bass player would hold back until the right time was there to work the entire fretboard. The guitarists just wailed away with slide moves, some subtle steel work, and thoughtful coloring to the vocals. Just great stuff and high time I caught this band. So why were only 20-35 people here? Your loss.

Quote of the Night: From the opening band's singer... "This one's about me doing drugs, but my mother is here so it's about me NOT doing drugs."

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