In my best of, '06 edition, I described Howlin' Rain as a more menacing Grateful Dead. Full of psychedelic intensity one minute, and churning country rock the next, there's a lot of early Dead weaving itself through this album. Howlin' Rain was a side project for Comets on Fire front man Ethan Miller, but Howlin' Rain is preferable to me than anything in the Comets catalogue, mostly because Miller reigns in the fury of the Comets sound and focuses her more on a more laid-back vibe. There's certainly plenty of weirdness here however, as the breakdown in the middle of 'Calling Lightning with a Scythe' can attest to. It's that dual nature of the album, that it has some great guitar and vocal pyrotechnics by Miller but never looses the notion that there are some well-crafted songs here. 'Roll on the Rusted Days' has a Stonsey shuffle, sax outro and all. 'The Hanging Heart' and 'The Firing of the Midnight Rain' get closest to Live/Dead era Dead with their odd flourishes. It's 'Calling Lightning with a Scythe' that sums up almost everything about the album: good melody, psychedelic guitars, banjos, and Miller's vocal howl. It's a song definitely encompassing a lot of Classic Rock tropes and still coming out as something exciting and new sounding. Howlin' Rain clearly shows its Classic Rock influence throughout, and why should that be a bad thing? In an age where music blogs trying to find the next innovative new band, it's sure re-assuring to hear some freewheeling rock & roll back.