CD review: Omar Dykes – Running With The Wolf
For nearly four decades, Kent “Omar” Dykes has been howlin’ about things close to his wild and wooly heart including his “Border Girl,” “Hard Times In The Land Of Plenty” and the fact that he is a “Mississippi Hoo Doo Man,” sharing his hometown of McComb, Mississippi, with Bo Diddley.
In recent years, Dykes has been paying homage to his musical heroes with a series of releases including ’07’s On the Jimmy Reed Highway, ’12’s Too Much is Not Enough and his current one, Running With The Wolf, a tribute to Howlin’ Wolf.
He makes his intentions clear from the opening cut, name checking Wolf’s hits in a growl Wolf would have approved of.
On “Killing Floor,” Dykes captures enough of Wolf accompanist Hubert Sumlin’s flavor to be recognizable as his style without copying him note for note, slipping around the melody. But he’s got the Wolf aura wrapped him as tight as skin, dead on in tone and attitude, as scary as the original howler. And as he did on his tributes to Jimmy Reed, Dykes doesn’t drag it out, getting his bidness done in around three minutes just like they used to do in the days of 45 rpm records when artists had to fit all their stuff on there in that time limit before the phonograph needle hit that hole in the middle of the record.
Dykes doesn’t back off from tackling any of Wolf’s signature howlfests including “Howling For My Baby.” Dykes doesn’t copy Wolf, but captures his essence, expanding on it by throwin’ in some rebel yells on the chorus after raising your hackles with a few graveyard groans. Eve Monses guitar deftly dances around Sumlin’s licks, keeping the flavor intact without replicating the original recipe.
He breathes new life into “Little Red Rooster,” howling along softly with his guitar at the end of every stanza with a wolfish oooh-aah, stirring in a taste of Captain Beefheart between the howling hounds and the prowling rooster lyric; engaging in some some serious string bending before clucking to a chicken pickin’ halt.
He really shines on “Smokestack Lightnin,” reaching deep into his Karl from Slingblade persona, howlin’ at the moon in a graveyard moan that makes your flesh crawl and should make his soon to be ex beloved crawl away as fast as she can while she still has a body above ground.
Dykes whips up a big cauldron of Bo Diddley rhythm for “Do The Do,” the Wolf’s big paws pounding along the Diddley highway as he howls exuberantly, his fur rippling with the chilly blasts from Kaz Kazanoff’s swampy sax.
As we’ve come to expect, this tribute pays homage to an Omar icon without ripping off his licks or commandeering his style, interpreting his spirit with originality and class.
By Grant Britt