Omar & the Howlers The Screamin' Cat (Provogue)
Reviewed by David Lynch, Fri., Sept. 8, 2000
Omar & the Howlers
The Screamin' Cat (Provogue)The latest from Austin blues stalwarts Omar & the Howlers comes from Provogue, a Dutch label whose motto is "Where Blues Meets Rock." That's a fitting tag for the Howlers, whose songs wouldn't necessarily reside in the gutbucket end of the blues spectrum, yet fit squarely in the snap-finger, melodic blues-rock end. Frontman Omar Dykes is proficient, too, putting out a handful of albums in nearly as many years, all the while touring like a Harley Sportster on Route 66. This diligent work ethic rewards the listener, from Dykes singing about the red-hot-mama archetype ("Girl's Got Rhythm" and "Automatic"), to his electric stringbox moaning for your work-a-day soul on "Snake Oil Doctor." Also distinguishing The Screamin' Cat's dozen tracks from the host of average blues-rock is Dykes' 55-gallon-drum vox, which gives you all the sawdust screaming and smokestack lightnin' you can handle. Most valuable performer/producer credits go to the combo of B.E. "Frosty" Smith and Malcolm "Papa Mali" Welbourne. The local dynamic duo adds multi-instrumentalism (B-3, baritone guitar, Fender Rhodes, mandotar) to tunes like rambunctious Gulf Coast blues opener "When Sugar Cane Was King," and textural samples and lyrical loops such as the backward-flavored break on "One Hundred Pounds of Pain." While Omar & the Howlers have released a lot of works in the past couple of decades, not all of them have documented their talent as well as The Screamin' Cat.