Saturday, August 17, 2013

Omar Dykes Runnin’ With The Wolf

Omar Dykes has been pretty busy with new releases lately and with his band, The Howlers, he has another new release Runnin’ With The Wolf (Provogue Records). As the title suggests, this is a tribute to Howlin’ Wolf. Given Omar’s gravelly, gruff vocals, an album of Wolf songs would seem a natural and Dykes approaches the material not to copy Wolf’s recordings, “but to stay close to the spirit. … I tried to modernize the songs … Why copy something not for note … when it’s already available in the original form. … I wanted to have fun with songs that I’ve loved ever since I was a kid.” 

Those backing Omar on his journey through the Wolf’s music include Derek O’Brien, Casper Rawls, or Eve Monsees on guitar, Ronnie James or Bruce Jones on bass, Wes Starr or Mike Buck on drums, Ted Roddy on harmonica, Nick Connolly on keyboards and Kaz Kazanoff and Lex Ismore on saxophones. Settings range from a trio (as on the tough renditions of Killing Floor, and Little Red Rooster, as well as the rollicking interpretation of Riding in the Moonlight) to a larger band with horns (as on the latin groove of Who’s Been Talkin’, the uptown urban funk groove of Do The Do (admittedly a pretty trite Willie Dixon lyric) and the all night party vibe of Wang Dang Doodle). Even on these sides with a larger band, the backing is supple, never heavy handed.

There are plenty of delights to be savored here including the title track that Omar penned with his imaginative incorporation of titles and phrases from Wolf’s recordings in his lyrics. A particular highlight for these ears is the rendition of Worried All The Time, which comes across as if Hank Williams had recorded a Wolf number. Its hard to find fault with the take on Spoonful, which is structured similarly to Wolf’s original recording and includes some short Sumlin-like guitar accents. In contrast, there is a country boogie guitar line used in the backing for Back Door Man, which is imaginatively reinvented here.

Marvelously played and sung, Runnin’ With the Wolf is a tribute to one of the greatest of all blues artists and another fine release from Omar Dykes.

I received my copy from a publicist for the record label.

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