Omar Kent Dykes has a remarkable voice – rough as a badger’s arse but full of soul too. This disc pairs the first two albums by the Texas based outfit and shows just why they have survived from the mid-eighties unto today – stripped and ripped Texas Blues that drives like a bucking mustang.

The music derives from the time of Robert Cray, Andon Funderbaugh, Bob Seger and Stevie Ray Vaghan and for this to have lasted this long there has to be something special about it and frankly that thing is honesty – they are playing the music they love and taking advantage of the fact that there was a resurgence in the Blues at that time. It really sounds as though this is the music they would be making whatever the fashions of the day.

The first 10 tracks are from the 1st album ‘Hard Times In The Land Of Plenty’ with the band consisting of Omar on vocals and guitar, Bruce Jones on bass and Gene Brandon on drums. A certain Reese Wynans plays keyboards – ex of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Double Trouble, Captain Beyond and a founder member of the Allmans Brothers Band before Greg Allman joined as well as currently being a stalwart for Joe Bonamassa.
The title track has all the band’s signature moves with a great riff and slamming rhythm as well as Dykes throaty vocals. The standout is probably ‘Mississippi Hoodoo Man’ with a great Tony Joe White groove to it and some stunning guitar – right out of the swamps.

By the time of ‘Wall Of Pride’ they had added Eric Scortia on keyboards – Wynans had moved on to Stevie Ray – and the album kicks off with a real Bo Diddley groove to it. Dyke’s vocals even more harsh and follows instantly with ‘Rattlesnake Shake’ (not the Fleetwood Mac number). You get a clear feeling that the band were kicking up a gear, more comfortable with each other and the process and really enjoying themselves. The album features an uproarious version of Jimmy Reed’s ‘Down In Mississippi’ and a real killer version of ‘We’ve Gotta Get Out Of This Place’ that owes a lot to the Animals but the addition of Omar’s vocals really takes it on.

Omar and The Howlers are one of the great 2nd division Texas bar and roadhouse bands and these two albums catch them pretty well at the beginning of something special.