Hot on the heels of Dykes' two Jimmy Reed tribute albums comes this Howlin' Wolf tribute, and in truth Omar is much better equipped to handle the Wolf than Jimmy Reed, with his own big rasping voice being similar to Wolf's. The album kicks off with "Running with the Wolf" an original tribute song made up of Howlin' Wolf song titles, then its into 14 Wolf classics including "Spoonful", "Smokestack Lightning" and "Little Red Roster". These aren't attempts to copy Wolf's Chess studio sound, the tracks are all given the Howlers' Texas blues treatment, with some like "Back Door Man" having a more rockabilly edge - as Dyke's says Wolf's guitarist Hubert Sumlin was such an original that you couldn't (or perhaps shouldn't) try to replicate what he did. Omar's big voice is mixed right up front with Derek O'Brien or Eve Monsees on guitar, Kaz Kazanoff on tenor sax, Ted Roddy on harp, Ronnie James on bass and drummers Mike Buck and Wes Starr. These are all well-known, much-covered songs, with some working better than others -I really liked the Western Swing-ish "Wang Dang Doodle" (a song Wolf himself hated) and the rocking "Howlin' for my baby" but for me "Spoonful" didn't really work although it is very close to the original version. However, in general I enjoyed the album, mainly because I love the Wolf originals but although there is some good creative playing here these versions can't really match the originals, with Howlin' Wolf's own paint-stripping vocals and the eerie sound of the Chess studios adding to the overall menace.
on 31 July 2013
even if I really like Omar, who - I guess - is "worldfamous" in northern Europe and a cool great guy, I am beginning to get a bit tired of his later records. Don't get me wrong, he has a great voice og and a wonderful boogie-swing to his music, and I have bought all his records for the last 20 years or so, but the monotony is creeping in now. I think, he has to start making something creatively new and interesting instrumentally, melody- and textwise etc. for him to - so to speak - get out of the swamp. But OK after all I like his latest Runnin' With The Wolf-cd better, than most of the latest Jimmie Vaughan-collaborations and Reed stuff - maybe mostly because I am such a big fan of good old Howlin' Wolf, which goes back to my "Yardbirds days" with great numbers as Spoonfull, Smokestag Lightnin' and more.