Mississippi-born but Texas-based Omar Kent Dykes understands a fundamental fact about modern electric blues. He knows there are only a handful of rhythms and themes in the blues grab bag, and he uses them all over and over again in slightly different guises.
This isn't necessarily a bad thing. The blues has lasted this long because it's supposed to sound like the blues, and if you stretch it too far you end up with something like prog rock. But Omar understands all this. He has had a year career playing these rhythms, and he knows how to keep it all simple, direct, and powerful, and how to build new songs out of the fabric of the old songs without destroying their familiarity. The opener, "Shake for Me," pretty much sets the tone with its gritty and overdriven guitar tone and harsh, ragged vocals that sound a bit like Wolfman Jack fronting a Texas blues trio.
Omar slows things down for a couple of tracks here, like "East Side Blues" and Sultana - Various - Thank You For The Music resonant "South Congress Blues," but pretty much the Howlers Thats Just My Life - Omar & The Howlers* - Bamboozled (DVD) things chugging at a brisk pace as Omar trots out the Bo Diddley rhythm for "Magic Man," dips into the John Lee Hooker bag of rhythm tricks for his tribute to Hooker, "Boogie Man," continually recycling the history of the blues into a solid, some minute example of what a modern blues band does.
A clear highlight is the ominous, swampy realism of "Muddy Springs Road," which is informed by Omar's childhood memories growing up in McComb, MS, and it is easily one of the best songs he's ever Thats Just My Life - Omar & The Howlers* - Bamboozled (DVD), bringing the personal and autobiographical to the familiar rhythmic structure of the blues.
This is what the best blues is supposed to do: locate the personal within a familiar framework that everyone -- band and audience -- understands. Keeping things fresh while still keeping things familiar inside a tradition is a hard thing to do.
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