Omar & The Howlers
Big Guitar Music
BluesWax Rating: 9 out of 10
Fifty Releases And As Strong As Ever
Disclaimer: If you have any back or leg disabilities, or if even snapping your fingers is uncomfortable, don’t listen to this album!
Omar Kent Dykes has been playing guitar since his pre-teen years, and has produced quality albums at a rapid and steady rate for over thirty years. I’m Gone is his fiftieth anniversary CD and continues his legacy. This is gut-bucket, take-no-prisoners, bar-band-at-its-best Texas blues with a slight country flavor and an irresistible groove.
Utilizing two different sets of rhythm guitarists and bass-drum foundations, Dykes remains front and center on all twelve songs, all penned by him except for one cut by John Lee Hooker. That unmistakable Austin sound promulgated by Jimmie Vaughan, Lonnie Mack, and the Fabulous Thunderbirds is here, along with some unanticipated variety.
The title cut opens the album; it’s an infectious blues rocker featuring Omar’s raspy voice, tinged with the residual drawl of his Mississippi childhood. “All About the Money” is a mid-tempo shuffle with caustic lyrics about a lover or friend whose mercenary motives rankle. “Drunkard’s Paradise” segues into pure country. Then we’re suddenly plunged into “Wild and Free,” an amalgam of Bo Diddley guitar riffs and jungle rhythms reminiscent of similar songs from several of James Harman‘s 1980s albums. “Down to the Station” follows; it’s a driving shuffle with propulsive lead guitar that would make Magic Slim proud.
For me, the highlight of the CD is the next song, “Lone Star Blues.” On this one song Dykes manages an initial guitar solo of single notes reminiscent of early B.B. King, segues into some Albert Collins talking guitar, conjures the late great Stevie Ray Vaughan, and throws in some scat singing congruent with his guitar lead that reminds one of John Mayall. What a tour de force! Where can we possibly go from there? Why, to “Omar’s Boogie,” an instrumental destined to melt the chrome off of your hubcaps; the allusion is deliberate, since it reminds me of Bill Kirchen‘s and the Lost Planet Airmen‘s “Hot Rod Lincoln.”
I’ve already referred to many other blues luminaries, but this album is not derivative; Dykes evokes the playing of others but builds on it with his own distinctive, unpretentious style. This disc is intended to captivate and motivate, and it does.
The album cruises to its conclusion with an ambling country-ish ballad, another mid-tempo blues rocker, a slow talking blues with an ominous lead appropriate to the title, “I’m Mad Again,” and the final cut, “Take Me Back (to Mississippi),” another compelling pile driver of a song.
This is one of my favorite albums of the year. Keep ‘em comin’, Omar!
Steve Daniels is a contributing writer at BluesWax.
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