It took three years for Jamie Oldaker to complete his love letter to his home state. The Tulsa, Oklahoma, native had to call in all of his favors in order to get it done, but the result is a first class album that focuses squarely on the Sooner State. Featuring songs written by Oklahomans and performances by musicians either from the state or with connections to it, Jamie Oldaker’s Mad Dogs & Okies is a celebration of Oklahoma’s country blues musical heritage. Oldaker’s guest list on this collection includes his highest profile employer, Eric Clapton, along with other noteworthy artists such as Vince Gill, Taj Mahal, Bonnie Bramlett, Peter Frampton, J.J. Cale, and Willie Nelson. Alongside these established singers, Oldaker has brought together some lesser-known Okie performers who are given their chance to shine, like Joe & Ellen, Wylie Hunt, and Steve Pryor.
Having worked as Bob Seger’s drummer in the early ‘70s, contributed to Clapton’s band since the mid-‘70s, and as a founding member of the Tulsa super group The Tractors, Oldaker is a well-connected and well-established drummer who lends his percussion skills to eight of the 16 tracks. Clapton helps Gill out on the lead off track, “Wait Til Your Daddy Gets Home”, with some electric guitar work and follows it up with vocal and acoustic guitar work on Willis Alan Ramsey’s “Positively”. But it’s Mahal’s “Don’t Let Your Feet Git Cold” sliding in to the third spot that really catches your ear. He immediately demands you “Get up!” but reassures you he’s “just a blues playing man trying to satisfy your soul!” Mahal’s delivery and John Ferguson’s guitar playing make the blues feel better than you ever thought they could.
Bramlett sounds like she’s having the best time of her life on the smoky blues of “Make Your Move”. Playing Six Degrees of Bonnie Bramlett helps to underscore just how familiar this group of musicians is with each other and their Oklahoma ties. After her stint as one of the Ikettes backing Ike & Tina Turner in the ‘60s, Bramlett formed Delaney and Bonnie with her husband. That group morphed into Delaney and Bonnie and Friends, which featured Oklahoman Leon Russell (whose vocal work is conspicuously absent from this collection) and opened for Clapton’s Blind Faith. Clapton left Blind Faith (whose “Can’t Find My Way Home” is given a great reading by Steve Pryor in this collection) to join up with Delaney and Bonnie and Friends, which Clapton later raided to form the core of Derek & the Dominos.
Oklahoma native J.J. Cale, who wrote the Clapton hits “After Midnight” and “Cocaine”, penned three songs on this collection, two of which he sings (“Daylight” and “Motormouth”) and a third, “Magnolia”, which is covered by Tony Joe White. Russell, who, according to Tulsa World, declined Oldaker’s invitation to actively participate in the compilation, is represented by Joe & Ellen’s take on his “Song for You”. Late album standouts include Frampton’s sprawling, melancholic, and beautiful “Sending Me Angels”, Pryor’s “Can’t Find My Way Home”, and Mahal’s cover of the standard “Stagger Lee”.
This album speaks as much to the respect Oldaker has earned from his peers as it does to his love of Oklahoma. Ultimately, Jamie Oldaker’s Mad Dogs & Okies accomplishes what it sets out to do: deliver a well put together collection of songs designed to represent and properly frame the impact of the Sooner State on the music landscape.