Howlin Rain and the Mythic Power of Chooglin'
Howlin Rain/Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson
Wednesday April 2
"Chooglin'" is an underrated verb. The definition, as famously put forth by Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Keep on Chooglin'," is fairly self-explanatory:
Maybe you don't understand it
But if you're a natural man
You got to ball and have a good time
And that's what I call chooglin'
Rock critics mostly use the term now to describe bands that evoke CCR's sound (and natural-man philosophy), which Howlin Rain do quite splendidly, unleashing not so much songs as excuses—to solo, to ramble majestically, to choogle. Led by Comets on Fire flamethrower Ethan Miller (whose compulsion to solo is so severe he often does so one-handed while emptying a water bottle), the band doesn't have much in the way of songs, or melodies, or riffs, even, but when the howlin' commences, two guitars and a keyboardist capable of sketching both Delta dirt and interstellar space vying for your attention, they embody the best of multiple Brothers: Allman, say. Doobie.
The odd singer-songwriter Brooklynite who goes by the name(s) Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson desires the same sort of a classic-rock synergy—when his backing band first cranks up ("Are the backing vocals sufficiently dampened with reverb and delay?" asks his bassist by way of introduction), it's pure Tom Petty. They have only begun to learn to fly; MBAR is charming, but his guitar frequently wanders out of tune, and his yelping voice often joins it, and his associates' backing vocals need way way more reverb and delay to be tolerable. His chooglin' potential is palpable, though, just waiting to emerge. At least he's having a good time.