Howlin Rain The Russian Wilds

It's been six years since the last album by Comets on Fire, 2006's masterpiece, Avatar, so it's safe to say that the backburner that band have been on will be perpetually lit. In the meantime, Comets vocalist and guitarist Ethan Miller has plugged along, releasing three albums with his new band, Howlin Rain. Their third, The Russian Wilds, is their first since 2008's Magnificent Friend, but very little has changed with the band's slightly lysergic, country-fried boogie rock approach. Vocally, Miller comes off as a slightly more eccentric version of Bad Company's Paul Rodgers and the band's '70s revivalism oozes through every track. While the ascent of Kings of Leon has made the world safe for retro jam bands again, Miller's earnest, bell-bottom blues with Howlin Rain have always paled in comparison to the heavy psych throttling of his previous band. The epic "Phantom of the Valley" retains some of the weird phase-shifting psych-punk experimentation of Comets, but this is an album that reminds one more of the Black Crowes than the Butthole Surfers. (American)