Howlin’ Rain have been raising hell since their formation in 2004, growing an ever rabid and devoted following in their wake. If there was ever an album to explain what all of the excitement is about, it’s Under The Wheels, Volume 2.
While the band has a seriously sick discography of studio efforts behind them, on stage is where they completely unfold their wings and soar. So digging into live records like this one is really the best entry point for understanding the power of this band.
The band blasts through several of their tried and true classics, and some recent favorites, like the title track from their last studio LP, The Alligator Bride, with a primal energy that never lets up. Every track bursts with aggressive riffs, maniac drumming and soulful vocals that you can’t help but want to sing along with.
Yet, where the album gets really tasty is when the band strays away from the structure of the songs and jams their way to achieving lift off. One of the wildest examples of this is “Calling Lightning Pt. 2.” Within 14+ minutes, this track goes from a Moby Grape-like groove to spacey “Dark Star” zones—complete with reverb-drenched guitar noodling—and then builds and builds into a speeding juggernaut rocker that must have incinerated everyone in the audience that night. This sonic firestorm sounds like what would have happened if Crazy Horse and Farm formed a supergroup together in 1971.
Later in the record, Howlin’ Rain brings some later-day Byrds choogling on “The Wild Boys,” while guitarist and singer Ethan Miller channels his inner young Springsteen and completely belts it on “Coliseum.” Yet, it’s the concluding aforementioned “Alligator Bride,” that really seals the deal and makes this album an instant essential record. The passion in this performance comes through so heavily in the growling guitar solos and Miller’s vocals, it easily steals the show.
Without a doubt, this is the recording that proves Howlin’ Rain is one of the best live bands currently playing. It’s just one more reminder that we need to do everything we can to end COVID, so we could finally experience music like this in person again someday.
Under The Wheels, Vol. 2 is only available on vinyl and cassette for a limited time, so click here to grab yours now. You can also pick it up digitally this Friday!