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Howlin’ Rain’s live record keeps us thinking about the past and future

Last updated on November 20, 2020

Everything about the music industry is in flux. Should we thank the pandemic for helping vinyl record sales overtake CDs for the first time in mid-September since the mid-1980s? Maybe that has been one tiny aspect of the music industry that has found a way through these dark times. Now, technology’s historic parallels throw us back, whiplashing us into Bob Geldof’s multi-continent famine relief event Live Aid. This time, though, it’s a different topic. The National Independent Venue Association’s Save Our Stages is a free three-day donation-based music festival on Youtube. The festival is a fundraiser to help independent venues until they can fully reopen. Until we have live music back, though, we have recorded live music to tide us over–like Howlin’ Rain’s latest.

Howlin’ Rain recorded performances for their project Under The Wheels: Live From The Coasts vol. 2 in the band’s 2018-19 tours. If you’re like me, you find something special about the live music experience. For fans of the vinyl, collections like this one from the Oakland, California band feel like being at the show. Music transports us, and that may be the greatest gift this collection has to offer. The music from this project lets listeners experience the rooms where the music was made live on stage. Like The Wood Brothers’ 2019 release Live at The Filmore, great rooms season good live music into co-created experiences we share.

Produced by Howlin’ Rain and Eric Bauer, this is a musical joyride for fans of rock and roll infused with Gregg Allman’s ethos. There’s no doubt “Rainbow Trout” soars thanks to Ethan Miller’s vocals and guitar. Would “The Wild Boys” be as steady-cool without Jeff McElroy on bass? “Calling Lightning Pt. 2” seems perfect on its own, yet the met challenge of sequencing this album shines a light on the talents of engineers Eric Bauer and Andrew Bush. JJ Golden’s mastering connects to the vibe, creating a believable sonic experience like we are all at the same show

Howlin’ Rain’s Under the Wheels: Live From the Coasts comes out October 30 via Silver Current Records. —Lisa Whealy.