Omar & the Howlers

Texas platters

Phases and Stages

Omar & the Howlers

Boogie Man (Ruf)

For 2001's Big Delta, Kent "Omar" Dykes revisited some previously recorded tunes, in part because they were solid compositions and in part because it's a challenge to keep the blues fresh. Along comes Boogie Man for 2004, 11 dyed-in-the-Mississippi swamp tunes, and all but "Mississippi Mud" co-written with notable songwriters – who else would think to invite Alejandro Escovedo or Ray Wylie Hubbard into the Delta? Steve Callif and Omar scared up the title track, a tight boogie with a ZZ Top-worthy hook that sets the tone for this unrestrained collection. Hubbard and Omar team up for hoodoo-drenched "All the Love We Can Stand" and the tongue-in-cheek "Bamboozled." Darden Smith is drafted for the excellent dusk-till-dawn atmospherics of "White Crosses" and shuffles through "Drowning in Love" with a casual lope. The Howlers' trademark "big leg beat" of "Shakin'" comes courtesy of a teaming with Michael Dan Ehmig, while the highway beat of "That's Just My Life," written with Malcolm Welbourne, trucks along. "You better get out of the swamp if you don't like the stink of the bullfrogs," warns Omar's gravelly vocal. And if you'd expect a collaboration with Escovedo to produce something grittier than usual, you won't be disappointed with "Right There in the Rain," on which the two share vocals. Stephen Bruton and Omar give "Bad in a Good Way," and so do accompanying musicians, including Chris Layton, Tommy Shannon, and Terry Bozzio. When it comes to something old and blue, who says you can't teach an old Howler new tricks?

**.5 

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