Emerging from a five-year silence, Howlin' Maggie decisively fulfills the extended promise of 1996's critically acclaimed but underappreciated Honeysuckle Strange. Founder/singer/guitarist Harold Chichester's original band incarnation and ties to Columbia slowly disintegrated while he was busy contributing his venerable musicianship to Afghan Whigs and Twilight Singers projects. Eventually recording and releasing Hyde independently, he overhauled HM, recruiting the talents of guitarist Lance Ellison, bassist Christian Hurd, and drummer Carlton Smith. The results are an amalgam of hard rock styles, dynamic instrumentation, and sophisticated lyrics, sounding both infectiously lush and fierce. Fueled by Chichester's penchant for crafting vivacious pop songs brought to life by his chameleon vocals sung with effortless, intense conviction, "Nobody Calls Her Baby," "Lookin' Out My Window," and the furious "Elephant Runs Amok" display atmospheric exuberance and instantly catchy guitar hooks. Although there's a tendency to overcook song endings in screamy euphoria, solid churners "Love Is All Around x 4" and "I Fall in Love With My Friends" are balanced by the superbly hip, grooving gem "FWINA" and the sublime funk sparkle of "Friday Nite." This is a solid sophomore effort, admonishing that Howlin' Maggie wasn't a one-album wonder, instead exhibiting signs of longevity further reinforced by ex-Afghan Whigs drummer Michael Horrigan's permanent replacement of Smith in March 2002.
AllMusic Review by Craig Curtice