When early this year Bluebird Reviews was made aware that American Blues Giant guitarist and singer/songwriter Omar Dykes had decided to release a mammouth 4 volumes of live performances recorded in the '90s in digital format with his trusted band The Howlers, it felt already very special, for our website and the many thousands of fans that have followed the career of Omar & the Howlers for the last four/five decades, just the fact itself that the Austin-based artist had released some never-heard-before material, although live, since Dykes & The Howlers' 2015 studio album, called The Kitchen Sink.
Back then, The Kitchen Sink sounded really like the swansong of Omar & The Howlers, mostly because Omar Dykes' health had sadly deteriorated, to the point that the legendary Mississippi-born guitarist couldn't perform live any longer.
But Dykes has never, though, said really goodbye to music in a definitive manner. In the last years, Dykes' health condition have fortunately improved and, although he is not able to play guitar for a long period of time and still unable to perform live, Dykes had been very active, by recording vocal parts for some of his fellow artist friends' records and also by releasing few books too, about his career, in-between 2015 and 2023.
Then, out of the blue, just like a happy ending in a fable, when many didn't think that Omar Dykes & The Howlers would release another studio album ever again, the news travelled that Dykes and a new line-up of The Howlers, which includes Dykes himself, Eve Monsees on guitars, Jason Crisp on bass guitar and additional guitars, Mike Buck on drums and percussion and Nico Leophonte on percussion, were going to release a brand new record called What's Buggin' You?, said news were hugely welcomed by a remarkable amount of followers and fans, capturing as well full attention from the worldwide music press.
In all fairness, What's Buggin' You? is really a very impressive record on so many aspects. Dykes and the new line-up of The Howlers have put together 11 songs soaked with layers of Boogie, Blues, Tex-Mex, R&B and Cajun of the finest quality, with Dykes and his wife and co-producer of the album, Issa Medrano, also both involved in the album's songwriting duties.
It is rather joyful to notice that the strength and power that were, together with his guitar playing, at the forefront of Dykes' artistry throughout his career, are still firmly there, especially in view of Dykes' recent health issues. From songs like Lover Man to Lone Star Boogie, or from Gator Man to When Push Comes To Shove, Dykes' voice is always in full force, shining throughout the whole record, showing no signs of slowing down at all. As an added bonus to the beauty of an already exceptional album, the Austin-based singer and songwriter plays also guitar on 4 of the record's tracks, plus, exceptionally, the harmonica too, on an extremely emotional homage to the roots of Delta Blues, through a song called Clarksdale, Mississippi, where Dykes emphasises, through the song's inspired lyrics, the impact and the importance that a genre like Blues keeps on carring within, since the last century ("...Blues had a baby, they called it Rock And Roll...", Dykes sings at one point).
The new line-up of The Howlers sounds really strong, with each individual musician shining in all their artistic talent, with a special note to Eve Monsees, whose body of work on guitar and slide guitar, is really exceptional.
It is no mystery that the late great Bluesman Bo Diddley was a huge inspiration for Dykes, throughout the growth of Dykes as a musician and a couple of songs included in What's Buggin' You?, namely Thousand Pound Gorilla and The Runnin' Man, which clearly absorbe the wall of sound that Diddley used to create in his own repertoire, are just some of the many standouts tracks of this very inspired and inspiring record.
What's Buggin' You? is the biggest and boldest comeback that Omar & The Howlers could have ever dreamt of putting together. Passionate, honest and delivered with exceptional craftmanship, What's Buggin' You? is one of those very precious record that makes one fall in love with music again and again. Maybe, just maybe, this record could be just the exceptional beginning of a second life for one of the most celebrated Blues artists of the last half a century and his trusted band of brothers. Long May Continue, Omar & The Howlers!
What's Buggin' You? is out now and it is available to be purchased on Amazon