Mixin’ With Howlin Rain
Filed under: Mixin' With Series,Mixtapes | Posted by: jody
Check out our exclusive “Rock Salt and Nails: A Country Voodo Mixtape” from Howlin’ Rain‘s Ethan Miller! Featuring tunes by Van Morrison, James Gang, Dr. John, The Rolling Stones and Steve Young among others, this incredible mix has been tested with road miles by Miller himself. As lead singer, songwriter, and guitar shredder for Howin Rain, Miller (who is also a founding member of Comets on Fire) has been touring nonstop. And today, Howlin Rain kicks off their SIX month tour across the pond, going to Ireland, England and the Netherlands before returning to the U.S. That’s a loooong tour. We wish you a very safe and mind blowing trip!
Rock Salt and Nails: A Country Voodoo Mixtape
By Ethan Miller
1. Wild Horses (1969 Rehearsal). By The Rolling Stones. From “Sticky Fingers”; The Alternate Album.
Man, doesn’t it sound like Mick T. and Keith have been sitting around sniffing glue while jamming this tune? Just knocked out but sharp like tongues of snakes flickering in and out finding the heart of the tune. I love this version. Raw as it gets and just don’t give a fuck to the max. But that deep longing and sorrowful resonance is already there in spades. Awesome. I’ll bet it was hot as fuck outside, the tour bus was rolling through the American summer heat in New Mexico or East Texas and they were in the back with a little tape machine rolling, foggy drunk on beer and pills in the warm afternoon light pouring through the bus windows but the A.C. blowing down on em from the ceiling. After this take Mick probably said, “Hang on a second let me grab a sheet of paper to write down those changes ” and Keith just nodded off and slumped into the seat snoring by the time he got back with a pen and paper. Mick probably just cracked another beer and kept running those solos by himself as the bus rolled on.
2. Border Lord. By Kris Kristofferson from “Border Lord”.
My favorite songwriter ever. This song is the very definition of a swampy buzzed rhythm and a great swaggering vocal performance. And one of the great road songs of all time. The weariness and exhaustion in this song’s vibe and performance comes through so hard and any traveling performer will hear it. Cause it’s not like the exhaustion of a hard day at the factory or the day job where your soul is just as beat as your body—though sometimes your soul gets beat too out there—but this is the sound of road dogs made of raw nerves that pulse adrenaline—usually the supply or reserves are exhausted but ready to plow forward and light fire one more time. When you here Kris’s voice you fucking believe it man. My soul is hurtin’, my body is giving in, my brain is dusted but am I ready to roll on? Fuckin’ right, does life get any better than this!? This shit is deep as the drunken moon.
3. Magnolias. By Steve Young. From “Lonesome, On’ry and Mean”
Who the fuck is Steve Young? You hear this jam?! I put another one on at the end cause he’s so fucking good. All I have been able to dig up on him is one 15 or 20 song compilation that a friend gave me. But by that I can hear he is a first rate song writer up there with Dylan or Van or Townes. What happened that his legacy goes so unsung and decayed? And the arrangements are absolutely stunning—the mix or organs and strings and various “country” instruments are like a heart break and a shot of clarity and the thrill of a swallow of tequila all at once. That voice!!!! Holy shit. It sounds so aged and wise and soaring but a voice that sounds like its gained the wisdom and is ignoring it so it can keep the binge going Sunday morning with dignity. I’d love to know more about Steve Young but even if I never know he stands huge, a grandiose figure in my imagination.
4. Wanted Dead or Alive. By Warren Zevon, from “Wanted Dead or Alive”.
A sick little evil little song. Zevon sounds like he’s not unjustly been accused of having an “outlaw face”. Motherfucker was an outlaw too. I like that sound like the drums were overdubbed after the song was laid down with vox and guitar. That’s some broke dick sound. They’re slightly off time and the fills seem stumbling trying to stay with the imperfect rhythm of the acoustic guitar. You just can’t manufacture that nature thing. He keeps that low menacing vocal delivery until the end when he’s cornered and about to get shot down and then he starts wailing and thrashing with anger and fear and injustice like a shot down rattlesnake. A deep and dark jam. A creeper and a crawler.
5. Harlan County. By Jim Ford. From “Harlan County”.
Another lost hero. Where are you Jim Ford? What are you writing today? What do you do? For us, the public, folks like Jim Ford and Steve Young created a public persona through their art and then just disappeared back into a literal life or death somewhere and their persona left behind becomes a ghost that keeps growing into a strong mythology. It just feels like they were walking beside you one minute and you’re walking down an old, wide dirt road together and talking and then you just look up when they don’t answer and they have simply disappeared— no rustle of the leaves, no trail and no sound—just a ghostly feeling left behind and the shock of solitude. And this absolutely transcendent art as big and worthy as the mythology is mysterious and grand.
6. God Out West. By Link Wray. From “Link Wray”.
Fucking loved this song long time. My friend Steve Ruecker got me into this when I was living in Santa Cruz and it just was like a soundtrack to life on Riverside ave. on the San Lorenzo river levee with my wife and dog and Ian living right across the street. No fucking shoes man. And none of your hemp bracelet shit—this is fucking death cult hippie shit—some Christian, dark, big muff hippie shit!!! Crucial, Fuzz, God, home grown religious ecstasy. Go tell it on the mountain meets magic mushrooms. Amazing. That fuzz solo translates in frequency code to read “God Bless you crazy mother fuckers and fuck ya– I’m heading for the hills and the door ain’t hitting my ass on the way out!”
7. Black Widow Spider. By Dr. John. From “Babylon”.
Speaking of some dark shit. Dr. John is one dark pop writer. Utrillo turned me on to the Dr. in the early Comets days. Mesmerizing. The first two (three) ((four)) (((five))) records have that soul/r&b/hippy accoutrements to them mixed with the heavy voodoo and a touch of the new Orleans sound that would blossom later with the hits. Some folks put on a pretty good show in the theatrical end of rock and roll but Dr. John is not fucking around. Whether he was or was not drinking chicken blood and doing all this voodoo shit he led a dangerous outlaws life that was probably a lot more dangerous and outlaw than voodoo and Saturday night seances. And he was writing great New Orleans r & b boogie tunes like they were bags of dope accidentally sliding out of his pant leg. Mac has a profound songwriting sensibility and persistence to stay in the business in his own fashion for all his nine lives. He is one of the greatest living rock and roll characters. This song particularly is a strange one. The jazz elements, the propulsion—to me, there is a different kind of tension and darkness than is usual for Dr. john.
8. Dambala. By Exuma. From “Exuma”.
Ah shit. Going even deeper into darkness and voodoo. Exuma—another hero of rock and roll whose legacy is half buried and in decay. I have an extra fond feeling for this album because we played it a lot on this trip that Ben Chasny took me out on to play with Six Organs in maybe 2005 or 06 to the Terrastock festival in Boston. We also did some gigs with Ghost and I remember sitting in the dark in rural Massachusetts with Ben and Joshua Burkett and we were listening to this and drinking whiskey and were about to go in and play in a barn as support to Ghost. Ghost were our heroes and we were all really nervous about playing with/ for them. We listened to this song and the first song off this album and then the b-side of “Beggars Banquet” and drank shots of whiskey in Joshua’s Volvo. It was funny because once we got in there and started playing we could hear Ghost back stage laughing loudly and drinking or whatever—Chasny and I looked at each other and chuckled mid song—they weren’t even watching!!! Ha!
9. Lay Baby Lay. By Cher. From “3614 Jackson Highway”.
My buddy Fitz turned us onto this record on a Comets tour in Europe while we were in Ireland. Cher’s album she recorded at Mussel Shoals—produced by Tom Dowd, one of the all time greats. The movie about his life and work, “The Language of Music” —Incredible and singular. The whole album is stunning and soulful, sexy but in a slow dreamy, classy, stoned way. I love the sound of the electric keys on this version. These Mussel shoals motherfuckers could dial this shit in!!! You just get the feeling there was nothing they couldn’t handle—to be elevated by a group of stranger musicians in a band like that—Cher must have had her mind blown.
10. The Vt-Ore. Floor. By Michael Hurley. From “Long Journey”.
My buddy Matt Sweeney played this jam for me while we were murdering some beers and staying up all night rapping and listening to tunes and telling stories at his L.A. hotel room. The neighbors kept calling the front desk and asking him to keep it down. He was enthralled by the horn arrangement and the timing of the rhythm—We sat there listening, is it in 4/4? No. Can’t be. What is it? Is it repeating normal patterns? Hard to tell cause every time you begin to hear its over-all rhythm turn around you get entranced and drawn away from the detail into those horns—they’re like opium. Another sorrowful jam. But glorious and defiant in its sorrow like seeing the sunrise on a valley from a boxcar. With one wheel bigger than the others. But still, impossibly, it runs smooth.
11. Engine of Ruin. By Earth. From “The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull”.
I love this new Earth record. I have missed out on a lot of their recent albums. Comets played with Earth their first two shows back and they seemed like they were coming out of a long dark place and trying to get their heads around their musical path and their paths in life. The sounds were all there though even then. Of course I couldn’t have predicted then that they would continue to write, invent and reinvent their musical path and artistic legacy into such a majestic construction and landscape. On First listen the slow motion riffs and molasses rhythms is the thing that you think is delivering the Earth vibes—but this album has more melodies and hooks and licks than a fucking Broadway musical and this palace vault of melodies made of gold and stone and bronze and bone are the real messenger. Howlin Rain jammed this driving out through the Joshua tree national park into the desert of Arizona and you really can’t ask for a better friend in the desert than Earth.
12. Madman Across the Water (original version). By Elton John. From “Tumble Weed Connection remaster + bonus tracks”.
Great song–yeah yeah yeah but this is an alternate version from the Tumbleweed era with some absolute shredding guitar playing–in fact it makes the damn song. Fuzzed out and ruling with echoplex flourishes and has that sass like “watch out motherfucker, I got a knife!” The guitar playing on this shreds way harder than your brand new rare psyche re-issue with its crappy little wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah. I think they dumped this version because the guitar stole the show and the E man wasn’t having it. Nor should he. Not in that outfit. But in the ballrooms of another planet this is the version that signifies the pouring of the Scotch for all come dark on Thursday nights.
13. Shadow of the West. By Lindsey Buckingham. From “Law and Order”.
Chasny turned me on to Law and Order. A favorite of his. Lindsey is a Chasny hero. Over the years I’ve done a lot of interviews for comets on fire and heard people describe Chasny’s electric playing in a lot of ways but never once has anyone caught the Lindsey influence and I hear a great dose of it– especially on Avatar and the electric playing of the last few Six O records. If you don’t believe me that Lindsey is one of the most intricate and unique players then rent the classic albums making of Rumors and they take off the vox and stuff and play the basic tracks with the guitars up on those songs and you can really hear that they are made up of finely woven silver threads of Lindsey’s playing — here is an ocean of melody and guitar awesomeness that you either can’t hear or is just woven too far into the quilt but it is genius playing and not in a guitar nerd way but in this way that just honors the invisible universal joy of music. It is so rare that a hit maker like that—a devastatingly huge hit maker– will leave behind the contribution of his finesse, creativity and innovation with his instrument and that will have contributed more to the way we play guitar and understand what we can do with a guitar than the majesty of the numbers of units moved beneath his pop hits.
14. Strangled Road. By Six Organs of Admittance. From “Shelter From the Ash”.
I was just floored by this song when I heard it. About as good a song as Chasny has ever written maybe in my opinion the best. Melodically and vibes and structure just move in a way that seems as true and natural and realized as a river in a canyon. And Elisa’s singing is just ghostly and gorgeous. It’s a damn good country folk song.
15. Bulb. by Van Morrison. From “Veedon Fleece”.
Needs no comment. Van speaks wholly for himself. Usually in the language of long shore man.
16. Dreamin’ In The Country. By James Gang. From “Thirds”.
James Gang always sort of seemed to have a flirting affection for country but this seems to be one of their most outright genre nods while Joe Walsh was in the band. This jam is just so solid. Reminds me of the way that Graham Nash plays with the genre. This reminds me not of city country but of rural days in a small town or out in an orchard or kicking a rock in front of an old country store, the heat blazing down, the cicada’s sawing away in full roar. Nowhere to go and nothing to do. Day’s feel like slow years moving by and it feels good.
17. Cease to Exist. By Charles Manson. From “LIE”.
Shit. I haven’t put Manson on a comp since I was 18 and I didn’t think I ever would again. I got that LIE album when I was about 18 because of the cover song of this track that Redd Kross did. But the album certainly doesn’t lack tunes and hooks and resonance. I almost sold it in a recent Ebay purge but didn’t, I think because it was a little beat up or had a skip. But anyhow, I was talking to a fellow about doing some soundtrack work for a horror movie and I thought about the Manson album and going to it for vibes. Sure enough, I could hear all that melody and pop/ folk vibe mixed with just venomous hatred and self-obsession that I remembered. And after I listened to it the vibes stuck with me. You can hear in this tune– it’s not just a hatred for the bourgeois, you can hear his hatred for those he claims he loves and leads too and that’s a heavy vibe. It’s not a cold blank psychotic hatred. It’s a passionate hot spite for enemies and friends alike. Like the Daniel Day character in “There Will Be Blood” or the John Huston character in “Chinatown” it was based on. To me that is a much more frightening vibe when it runs all over you, when you realize what is being communicated through flower power, or over a fancy steak lunch in a business meeting or next to the coy pond at a millionaire’s peaceful mansion—pure hatred— not for who you are or what you represent or because you are a mark but simply for the unchangeable fact that you are a member of the human race. That communication is here in this song and you don’t think about it much but it is an extremely rare expression in music, especially when its sincere, and that makes this song unique.
18. Rock Salt and Nails. Steven Young. From “Lonesome, On’ry and Mean”.
I am not usually one of those “multiple songs by one artist per mix tape” type of guys but since this is sort of a country comp I wanted Steve Young to be king of this comp. Here is another masterpiece. You can hear Dylan and the Band cover this tune in the complete Basement tapes (4 or 5 cd bootleg with complete B.T. sessions). Nuff Said!!!
Upcoming Tour Dates
May 1 2008 Aunt Annie’s Belfast
May 2 2008 In Store Appearance, Tower Records Dublin
May 2 2008 Whelans Dublin
May 3 2008 Pine Lodge Cork
May 4 2008 Sounds from the other city at the Kings Arms Salford, Manchester
May 5 2008 Custard Factory Birmingham
May 6 2008 Luminaire London
May 7 2008 Miss Peabod’s Cornwall
May 8 2008 Clwb Ifor Bach Cradiff
May 9 2008 All Tomorrow’s Parties Camber Sands, ATP
May 11 2008 The Croft Bristol
May 12 2008 Scala London
May 24 2008 Brookdale lodge Santa Cruz, Highway 9, California
May 28 2008 Jambalaya Arcata, California
Jun 6 2008 Drunken Unicorn Atlanta, Georgia
Jun 7 2008 Black Cat Boone, North Carolina
Jun 12 2008 The Pilot Light Knoxville, Tennessee
Jun 13 2008 Bonnaroo Manchester, Tennessee
Jun 23 2008 Hove Festival Ardenal
Jun 25 2008 Vera Club Gronigen
Jun 26 2008 Paradiso Amsterdam
Jun 27 2008 Merlyn Nijmegen
Jul 11 2008 Local 506 Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Jul 19 2008 Henry Miller Library Big Sur, California
Jul 23 2008 Howie and Sons Pizza and Beer Parlor Visalia, California
Aug 16 2008 Green Man Festival Wales
Sep 10 2008 Van Duzer Theater Arcata, California
Sep 12 2008 Wells Fargo Center Santa Rosa, California
Sep 13 2008 the Joint Las Vegas, Nevada
Sep 13 2008 the Joint Las Vegas, Nevada
Sep 16 2008 Ikeda Theatre (Mesa ARts Center) Mesa, Arizona
Sep 17 2008 The Greek Theater Los Angeles, California
Sep 19 2008 Santa Barbara County Bowl Santa Barbara, California
Oct 7 2008 The National Richmond, Virginia
Oct 8 2008 The National Richmond, Virginia
Oct 11 2008 the Palace theater Albany, New York
Oct 12 2008 Calvin Theater Northampton, Massachusetts
Oct 17 2008 Boston Opera House Boston, Massachusetts
Oct 18 2008 The Town Ballroom Buffalo, New York
Oct 28 2008 Hammerstein Ballroom New York City, New York
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