Friday, 2 December 2011
Review: Omar and the Howlers
Omar and the Howlers - Essential Collection (Ruf)
Although the Mississippi-raised, now Texas-based, Omar Kent Dykes has led the Howlers in some form or another since the very early seventies, Ruf’s thirty-track two disc retrospective, ‘Essential Collection’, concentrates on the period 1991-2007. This takes us from the three piece outfit that rocked the Paradiso on four blistering live tracks cut there back in the day, through a series of experimental permutations, to collaborations with Jimmy Vaughan from their recent Jimmy Reed tribute album.
The first side is broadly presented as a ‘Greatest Hits’ package, later versions of earlier favourites such as (the topical again) ‘Hard Times in the Land of Plenty’ and (the Fogerty-indebted) ‘Mississippi Hoodoo Man’ joining songs from later studio albums such as ‘Muddy Springs Road’ and ‘Boogie Man’ where the sound of the basic blues trio is fleshed out with a second guitarist and occasionally keyboards, to good effect. The second disc highlights Omar’s own personal choices and sees him showcasing some of his more eclectic efforts, including a couple of songs from the 30’s flavoured, jazz-influenced ‘Swingtime’, and a closing rendition of Willie Dixon’s ‘Built for Comfort’, claimed as a personal statement, and featuring Magic Slim.
His vocals and guitar playing remain effortlessly top class across a full range of smouldering slow-burners, Bo Diddley-esque groovers, steamy swamp rockers and engagingly eccentric diversions, begging the question as to why the man doesn’t have a higher profile among UK-based blues fans.