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Omar Dykes and his Howlers keep the rockabilly, Texas blues flame burning with slow grooves and growling boogies.

Music Review: Omar and the Howlers – I’m Gone

When I reviewed Omar & the Howlers’ Essential Collection and Gary Primich‘s Just a Little Bit More…with Omar Dykes, I had much to write about. Both were two-disc sets and retrospectives that boiled down decades of recordings into essential collections indeed.

Now, I’m Gone is guitarist, singer, and songwriter “Omar” Kent Dykes’ 50th anniversary release. With the exception of the previously unreleased tracks on the Primich tribute, it’s the first new material from Omar and his band since Boogie Man in 2004. Still, there’s much less to say about it than the previous collections.

The Howlers are a band of interchangeable players with the two mainstays being Bruce Jones on bass and Wes Starr on drums, a rhythm section who’ve worked with Dykes since 1980. For the two day sessions that became I’m Gone, the Howlers also included drummer Mike Buck (of the Fabulous Thunderbirds), bassist Ronnie James, and guitar from Casper Rawls and Derek O’Brien. With the exception of “I’m Mad Again” by John Lee Hooker, all songs were written by Dykes and recorded quickly to retain the immediacy he prefers.

While the Howlers are billed as a blues congregation, I’m Gone can’t be so easily pigeon-holed. The disc opens with the rockabilly tune “I’m Gone” and closes with the rockabilly jam “Take Me Back.” There’s also the pure honky-tonk country of “Drunkard’s Paradise.”

We also get two instrumentals. The first is the straight-up slow-burning blues number “Lone Star Blues”; the other is “Omar’s Boogie,” with yet another use of rockabilly grooves.

The rest of the offerings are Texas-flavored shuffles and boogies that are ideal, as usual, for nights out at your local watering hole. One standout is Hooker’s “I’m Mad Again” where Dykes narrates what he’s unhappy about—and it’s hard to disagree with him.

That’s about it. I’m Gone isn’t anything more than it claims to be, a batch of 12 songs that are entertaining but not classic, nor likely to be on anyone’s “best of” list for 2012. Still, Dykes fans will find much to like. If you’re not yet in that number, the Essential Collection is definitely a better place to start. If you already have it, then you can make your choices for which tracks from I’m Gone should appear on a future “Essentials” compilation. I have no doubt Dykes still has plenty of gas in his partying tank and that he’s not really going anywhere soon.

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