Mississippi-based Omar & The Howlers were part of the blues revival of the ‘80s that turned people like Stevie Ray Vaughn into superstars. While not on the same plane as Vaughn and his band Double Trouble, Omar Kent Dykes most certainly has the credentials and the talent to give him a place in the book of blues.
This is a two-disc collection of his best. The first disc is his “greatest hits” compilation, while the second disc is Omar’s personal favorites from his oeuvre throughout the years. This second disc, much more than the first, tends to focus on the more traditional sounding 12-bar electric blues material. The first disc, while having several examples of that, also contains many songs that vary the song structures with verse-chorus form. For this reason, the first disc is much more varied and interesting than the second.
The highlights are many. “Snake Oil Doctor” is a pounding blues replete with slide guitar riffing. “Monkey Land” both reinterprets and subverts the cliché of the blues (and blues singers, by extension) being a font of primal, neanderthal energy. On “Jimmy Reed Highway”, Omar takes a moment to tip his hat to several of his forefathers. “Wall of Pride” is a gritty, rough-around-the-edges slab of hard rock and “Bad Seed” is a Latin-tinged confession of a life lived wrong.
One of the most appealing things about this set is Omar’s voice, which at times sounds remarkably like Howlin’ Wolf, one of the greats from whom Omar probably took his band’s name. On other songs where Omar sings in a higher register, such as the standout “Hard Times in the Land of Plenty”, he sounds exactly like Brian Johnson from AC/DC. If you ever wanted to hear that guy fronting a more traditional blues band, this is your chance. It’s pretty awesome.
This is great collection for fans of the blues. Perhaps a little repetitive in parts, drawing from the same basic blues rhythmic tropes and forms, but chances are if you’re a blues fan you’ve already gotten used to that anyway.
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// Notes from the Road
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