FAME Review: Omar & the Howlers - Essential Collection
Omar & the Howlers - Essential Collection

Essential Collection

Omar & the Howlers

RUF Records - RUF1174

Available from Amazon.com.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

Omar Kent Dykes hails from the same hometown as Bo Diddley—McComb, Mississippi—and kicks off this 2-CD wide-spectrum anthology of Omar & the Howlers' history with a tribute to The Big Bo in Magic Man, a house-shakin' quick-step in Diddly's trademark damped-chord boogeying stutter-step. The first disc is a Best Of while the second is an array of Omar's own favorites above and beyond the first slab. All together you get, hoo-boy!, 30 cuts for a long serious excursion into the group's thick-voiced grittiest days, weeks, and years, well punctuated by Omar's no-nonsense-up-front guitar, and man can he ever lean into it! Not in a speedster way but in that all-guts-and-sinew fashion he's acclaimed for—catch the middle eight in Hard Times in the Land of Plenty, and you'll immediately see what I mean.

You'll also find a few surprises along the way, such as Terry Bozzio sitting in, not to mention David "Fathead" Newman (sweet!), Jimmie Vaughan, and others, as well as Malcolm "Papa Mali" Welbourne on a cool-ass electric sitar during the Big Delta period. The various ensembles range from a stripped down but cookin' trio to a seven-piece for that really full sound, and no, that ain't Capt. Beefheart in the spoken patter. Omar also has that hardtack 'n thick fog timbre thing going. The guy's been making blues rock for—holy Christ!—50 years (1962 - 2012) and every dusty road, nasty bar, and baking highway is reflected in that growl of his alongside all the boogey and Chicago / delta / my-God-what-was-that-thick-greasy-blue note? sound.

The lion's share of the cuts are written or co-written by Dykes, and there are plenty of cool surprises along the way, such as one that really caught my ear, the trimmed to the bone Big Chief Pontiac that digs beneath the skin and sets a big ol' blaze along several nervelines. But there are some gem standards as well, such as Oscar Brown Jr. and Nat Adderly's timeless Work Song, Willie Dixon's Built for Comfort, and several others. One thing that doesn't change, though, is that reliable Omar & the Howlers thick meaty groove. If you're new to this guy and his crews, then this is THE place to start…and if this is indeed your first exposure, where the hell have you been? Alien abduction??

Track List:

Disc OneDisc Two
  • Magic Man (Kent Dykes)
  • East Side Blues (Kent Dykes)
  • Border Girl (Dykes / Field)
  • Hard Times In The Land Of Plenty (Kent Dykes)
  • Bad Seed (Dykes / Field)
  • Wall Of Pride (Dykes / Wommack / Wommack)
  • Mississippi Hoo Doo Man (Kent Dykes)
  • Big Chief Pontiac (Kent Dykes)
  • Tears Like Rain (Kent Dykes)
  • Monkey Land (Kent Dykes)
  • Snake Oil Doctor (Kent Dykes)
  • Muddy Springs Road (Dykes / Ehmig)
  • Boogie Man (Dykes / Callif)
  • You Made Me Laugh (Dykes / Callif)
  • Jimmy Reed Highway (Dykes / Callif)
  • I Want You (Kent Dykes)
  • Snake Rhythm Rock (Kent Dykes)
  • Burn It To The Ground (Kent Dykes)
  • Got My Heart Set On You (Kent Dykes)
  • Work Song (Brown Jr. / Adderly)
  • Alligator Wine (Lieber / Stoller)
  • Do It For Daddy (Kent Dykes)
  • I'm Wild About You (Kent Dykes)
  • That's Your Daddy Yaddy Yo (CLarence Brown)
  • Stone Cold Blues (Dykes / Ehmig)
  • Girl's Got Rhythm (Dykes / Wommack)
  • Life Without You (Kent Dykes)
  • World Of Trouble (Dykes / Wagner)
  • Sugar Ditch (Dykes / Ehmig)
  • Built For Comfort (Willie Dixon)

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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