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Omar & The Howlers - Boogie Man (Ruf Records)
Reviewed by Terry Wisbey 01.06.05

Austin, Texas based Omar recently played the 100 Club with the Howlers as part of a large European tour. He's been a fixture on the Austin scene since 'back in the day' - contemporary with the Fabulous Thunderbirds and Stevie Ray Vaughan - and this album features songwriting collaborations with the great and the good from the Texas blues world, not to mention musical contributions from the Double Trouble boys. Who better to review this CD then than Bishops Stortford's answer to Stevie Ray, special guest reviewer Terry Wisbey.

As you might expect with a name like Omar & the Howlers, this is full strength blues rock characterised by Omar’s rich nut brown vocals and big guitar sounds. There is the added bonus of some excellent contributions from guest artists, particularly Chris Duarte and SRV’s rhythm section, Chris Layton and Tommy Shannon.

The album begins with a bang (no whimper in sight), with the vibrant Boogie Man, the title track which has a ZZ Top vibe and a good muscular rock guitar tone. The dynamic mood continues with Bamboozled, an up-tempo Texas style shuffle, a great groove with Omar’s vocals excelling, closely followed by Stone Cold Blues, one of my favourites which has a distinctive driving guitar riff.

For White Crosses and Drowning in Love (tracks 4 and 5) the mood changes as the band moves into melodic rock with a hint of country. White Crosses is an attractive minor key composition while Drowning in Love has a J J Cale feel to it - two interesting ballad style songs with Omar displaying the sweeter side of his good vocal range.

For track six we are right back into the rock arena with Shakin’ featuring a big Nils Lofgren type guitar sound with a heavy Leslie/Vibrato effect, and with at least two cranked-up guitars, almost a wall of sound!

Right There in the Rain (Track 7) is another melodic interlude with nice chord progressions before the mood revs up again with three driving tracks Bad in a Good Way and That’s Just My Life, both with a hint of ZZ Top, followed by Mississippi Mud which has a nice hook to it.

The album is rounded off with All the Love we Can Stand, a slowish, bluesy rock song with that big guitar sound in evidence again.

All-in-all this is a well recorded and produced album with plenty of variety, good sounds and loads of oomph! If you like your blues rocky, hot and strong you will definitely enjoy this album and with some mellow tracks thoughtfully interspersed with the heavier ones it won’t “do your head in”!

CD £12.99 Available from AMAZON

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