The gutsy, gritty blues of Austin’s burly, authentic electric rock avatar, Kent “Omar” Dykes will descend upon Temple’s Cultural Activities Center this Saturday. Flanked by bass and drums, Dykes fronts up the power trio known as Omar and the Howlers, a tight and funky band that’s renowned as an authentic, Mississippi-roots live music powerhouse.
A native of McComb, Miss., Dykes formed Omar and the Howlers in 1978 and tours coast to coast in North America, as well as in Europe. “We’ve done good over (in Europe) for about 30 years,” Dykes said. “They like their Howlin’ Wolf over there, too,” which dovetails nicely with the release of their latest CD: “Runnin’ With the Wolf,” a tribute to the iconic bluesman containing Dykes’ take on 14 classics immortalized by the album’s namesake.
Dykes minces no words about the group’s 23rd album, “Runnin’ With the Wolf.”
“We’re not going to play a Howlin’ Wolf song just like it was played back in the day because we can’t,” he said. “Nobody can do it — my intent was not to copy the songs but to stay close to the spirit. Why copy something note for note and follow every little detail, when it’s already available in the original form?”
Many albums later, Dykes is still touring and playing concerts, like the one in Temple.
“I still do 150 to 160 shows a year, and with travel days, that adds up to a lot of time away from home. It always seems like we’re on a plane headed somewhere.”
Saturday’s concert is a part of the CAC’s Jazz & Blues 2013-2014 series.
The Howlers paid their live music dues in Austin nightspots like the Soap Creek Saloon, the Broken Spoke and the late, much lamented Armadillo World Headquarters. Out of a melange of genres, the group emerged with a sound characterized as “raw, rowdy, rambunctious blues.”
And about that name: the other Howlers started calling him “Omar Overtone” because of his over-the-top guitar feedback onstage while he swooped to the floor to spin on his back in an impromptu break-dance episode. As he’s admitted, those performances were “sometimes fueled by alcohol.”
Three and a half decades of raucous blues performances may have mellowed the once-infamous Omar and the Howlers, but recent reviews affirm that their urgent, “Mississippi Hoo Doo Man” music still whips up a steaming cauldron of down-home soulful delights.
The straightforward Dykes is humble when he speaks of his mentors. “I do my little versions of the songs. If Howlin’ Wolf was a 500-pound steel anvil, then I’m a little piece of steel wool that fell out of the pack.”
How about original compositions? “I still have songs. I’ll have them out sooner or later,” he said.