Music » Music Stories & Interviews

Swamp Thing


Omar Dykes
Omar Dykes isn't a man known for surprises. The Mississippi native has been cranking out the same roadhouse blues-rock since he settled in Austin 27 years ago, with no indication that he's ever contemplated a stab at trip-hop or rap-metal. Dykes is like a craftsman who spends his adult life makes nothing but wooden benches, convinced that the next bench will be the perfect one.

Although the most obvious precedent for his guttural growl is Howlin' Wolf, Dykes has none of the Wolf's feral ferocity. When he sings that he doesn't play anything but "Stone Cold Blues," it's no threat. It's more like a market-targeting, family-friendly reassurance; like A&W saying, "All we serve is root beer."

Dykes' swamp boogie splits the difference between the Fabulous Thunderbirds and early ZZ Top, but he has more in common with a dedicated journeyman like George Thorogood. Neither man is blessed with an extravagance of talent or imagination, but both get by on sincerity, heart, and a tortoise's long-distance tenacity.

Omar & the Howlers

CD Release Show

Saturday, February 28
1719 Blanco

On Boogie Man, his new album with his backing band the Howlers, Dykes shows the good sense to enlist the help of some talented old friends. He locks in with Stevie Ray Vaughan's old Double Trouble rhythm section (drummer Chris Layton and bassist Tommy Shannon) on three cuts, adds the guitar prowess of Chris Duarte, Malcolm Welbourne, and Jon Dee Graham, and even brings in former Frank Zappa/Missing Persons drummer Terry Bozzio. More importantly, he also works with a host of songwriting collaborators, including Alejandro Escovedo, Ray Wylie Hubbard, and Darden Smith.

While "White Crosses" and "Right There in the Rain" push Omar and the Howlers toward John Fogerty-esque introspection, most of the album is boilerplate Lone Star blues. Dykes' greatest virtue is that no matter who he works with, he always sounds just like Omar Dykes. •

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