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Originally Published December 15, 2000
Blues That Will Make Your Hair Stand On End
By Don “T-Bone” Erickson
The Screamin’ Cat – Omar & the Howlers – Provogue
The special brand of Blues that Omar & the Howlers put out is definitely not for the timid. Cats are known to possess nine lives, but I think the Howlers “sonic voodoo” could kill a black cat at 50 paces. Perhaps that is why the title of their new album is The Screamin’ Cat.
Kent “Omar” Dykes has been recording his mix of Howlin’ Wolf-meets-Creedence Clearwater Revival style of Blues-Rock for two decades now. His abrasive singing and hard-edged guitar playing is certainly not for everybody, but if you are looking for a powerful combination of Texas shuffles and Louisiana swamp-style Blues, you have come to the right place with Omar and company.
His debut album, Big Leg Beat, was more of a Jump-Blues style outing, but by the time his third album, Hard Times In The Land Of Plenty, came out in ’87, his sound had solidified into the hard-driving sound that he is still mining today.
Omar gets a major assist on this disc from Papa Mali, who not only lays down some mean guitar, especially on slide, but also plays bass on most of the album. Here and there, Mali also adds some B-3 organ, dobro, baritone guitar, and an instrument called a mandotar(!) If someone can tell me what that is, exactly, please shoot me an e-mail, as that’s a new one on me. The other bass player is Paul Junior, and B.E. “Frosty” plays drums, as well as adding occasional keyboards. Mali and Smith also share the production duties for this disc.
It all makes for a musical stew that, at times, will make your hair stand on end and raise chill bumps on the back of your neck. I don’t think you would want to be listening to the title cut or “Snake Oil Doctor” while walking through a dark alley or moonlit bayou.
Besides the downright eerie vibe of those two tunes, there is the Bo Diddley beat of “One Hundred Pounds Of Pain”, the disjointed Howlin’ Wolf-style lope of “Party Girl”. The album closes with “Automatic”, which sounds like an obvious tip-of-the-hat to Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Pride And Joy”. All-in-all, a consistently high-quality listening experience.
Be forewarned, though – when you hear The Screamin’ Cat, better have your mojo bag at your side.
By Don “T-Bone” Erickson
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