Omar Dykes

Big Town Playboy

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After years languishing in the blues-rock trenches, Omar Kent Dykes left his Howlers band behind in 2007, hooked up with friend and fellow Austin-ite Jimmie Vaughan, brought in some like-minded guests such as singer Lou Ann Barton, and cruised into one of the most popular blues albums of that year with a tribute to a major influence for both musicians; On the Jimmy Reed Highway. Little has changed on this follow-up from two years later. While only two tunes are penned by Reed, and Vaughan's billing has shrunk to a below the title "featuring" credit, this can't help but be seen as a logical extension of its popular predecessor. Dykes digs into the lazy, Texas Reed shuffle from the opening title track (written by Reed's longtime guitarist Eddie Taylor), through the closing buzz of Slim Harpo's salacious "King Bee," 40 minutes later. But this is no case of sloppy seconds. Rather Dykes and Vaughan seem energized by the acclaim of their previous collaboration and loosen up with some returning friends (Barton, guitarist Derek O'Brien, and drummer Wes Starr, the latter who deserves more credit than he gets for capturing the loose yet crisp shuffle associated with Reed's approach) on a similarly styled session that is every bit the equal of the last. Highlights include a tough, sassy duet with Barton on Jimmy McCracklin's "Think," and a swampy cover of John Lee Hooker's "No More Doggin'." Ronnie James' upright bass also adds a rootsy element captured by Vaughan's predominantly low-key solos. James Cotton swings by on harp for five selections including a peppy take on Lightnin' Slim's "Hello Mary Lee." The set sounds perhaps deceptively spontaneous as the players congeal around their mutual love for this laconic yet invigorating Texas blues. There is no sense trying to update this traditional sound, yet Dykes and co. succeed in blowing new life into it, and kudos if they can boost their careers in the process.

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