Omar And The Howlers – Swingland


I first ran across Omar Dykes in the mid ’80s when I heard a bluesy radio-ready rock album called Hard Times In The Land Of Plenty. I liked it, and some quick research dug up more rootsy stuff that showed him and the Howlers to be a fine blues-driven band that felt at home playing the real deal.

First off, Omar has a great voice. It’s one part Howlin’ Wolf, one part swingtown hipster. Very distinct, and very cool. It cuts through on tracks like “Mr. Blues Is Coming To Town,” and the very funny (and very true) “Quite Whiskey.” And I didn’t think I’d ever hear a cover of “Hit The Road, Jack” that could sound good, simply because Ray Charles version is so definitive. But it’s featured here and it cooks.

Omar doesn’t play as much guitar here as he has on past efforts, but when he does, it’s tasteful and to the point. And on other cuts, Derek O’ Brien is featured and plays some marvelous solos (“Ain’t That Just Like A Woman” and “One Room Country Shack”). The band cooks throughout. Effortless grooves on stuff like “Going Up The Country” and the instrumental “Don’t Lose Your Cool” show a very hot band that understands its music. Throw in some guest shots by the likes of David “Fathead” Newman and Gary Primich, and you’ve got a wonderful musical journey. Recommended.

This review originally appeared in VG‘s May ’98 issue.

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