Ethan Miller's Howlin' Rain has issued several live offerings in the past, either directly from his blog or in various limited editions on various labels. Live Rain was compiled from several performances on 2012's The Russian Wilds tour, and features the same lineup that appeared on that album: Miller on lead vocals and guitar, Isaiah Mitchell (Earthless) on guitar, bassist Cyrus Comiskey (Drunk Horse), and drummer Raj Ojha. "Phantom in the Valley," "Self-Made Man," "Can't Satisfy Me Now," and "Beneath Wild Wings" all appeared on that record, and they comprise the first four selections here. Given Rick Rubin's production on the studio offering, these more visceral readings are more incendiary and ragged -- especially the blues-fried distortion and guitar interplay in "Self-Made Man" that burns on for over 11 minutes. The live version of "Lord Have Mercy" (from 2008's Magnificent Fiend), with its gospel overtones, is excellent once it moves past the verses. "Hung Out in the Rain," which eventually appeared on 2013's The Griffin EP, is a ballad with nice slide work, but is otherwise unremarkable, an unnecessary and perhaps even unwelcome break from the set's intensity. Things pick up with the soulful, Southern-fried "Calling Lightning, Pt. 2," which features tight, twinned guitar lines, and one of the more outrageous bass solos to appear on a rock record in recent years. The track gives way to a fluid, ripping, "Dancers at the End of Time." (While these are longtime band concert standbys, these versions also eclipse their studio counterparts on Magnificent Fiend.) The closer is a scorching, unhinged reading of "Roll on the Rusted Days," whose original was a high-water mark on Howlin' Rain's self-titled debut in 2006. Miller's moaning and growling in the intro gives way to fist-pumping, furious boogie rock with razor-wire dual lead guitars and double-timed kick drum. It was obviously inspired by the live recordings of Lynyrd Skynyrd, and it blisters. Despite the single misstep, Live Rain is a worthy stopgap between studio recordings.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek