September 17, 2021 (published)
A galloping rhythm section and a fat double-playing guitar give a hard edge to the opening “Waterdogs”. Leadbetter’s voice rises from that raucous, Warren Haynes range all the way to the 80s metal range. ‘Doesn’t Change a Thing’ goes slinky with a shifting pentatonic riff. Something in the vein of Gary Clark Jr. with
Leadbetter presenting a well-executed, psyche-tinged melodic solo.
The songs become looser and more experimental as the album settles. The mid-album string of ‘Time Waits’, Feedin’ the Landlord’ and ‘On the Road’ is the highlight of the record. Tasteful delayed guitar and mellow atmospheres mark “Time Waits” as Leadbetter sings about the great old muse of all blues music: time. An evangelical mood emerges as he laments the quickening pace of life. ‘Feedin’ the Landlord’ loose Leadbetter. Jimmy Page-style spongy riffs that play with rhythmic standards for swampy, stomping blues. The second half of the track is a sprawling solo that brings the feeling of living with the ebb and flow of a tightly-knit band performing in front of a crowd at the end of the show. ‘On the Road’ quickly ends with a quick highway shuffle. The harmonica carries us all down the line as Leadbetter’s voice swings between Haynes and Hagar.
Howl has its ups and downs. Some tracks that would keep a bar going and dancing fall a little flat on the record and sometimes it feels like Leadbetter is holding back to make the songs more digestible. This is a band that should be experienced live. But there are killer tracks on this record and as long as you allow yourself a listen or two of the whole record, you’ll find that the band is capable of doing a great job.