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Dykes and Vaughn team up for more blues

Reviewed August 2009

Big Town Playboy
Big Town Playboy
By Omar Kent Dykes

Ruff Records: 2009

To hear sound clips or learn more about this release, Turbula recommends viewing its Amazon.com entry.

Former Omar and the Howlers frontman Omar Kent Dykes teamed with Texas guitar legend Jimmie Vaughan in 2007 for a highly successful disc of Jimmy Reed songs, "On the Jimmy Reed Highway." Dykes is back with "Big Town Playboy," and Vaughan is along on this project, along with some other blues luminaries, including harp player James Cotton and singer Lou Ann Barton, to sing more blues.

Dykes has a deep, raspy growl that mixes in elements of Dr. John, the late Wolfman Jack, and old blues icons like John Lee Hooker. This set benefits from his old-school approach, since the harp players are solid but can't be considered fast or flashy, and Vaughan, who anchors most of the best guitar work here, is a steady fundamentalist whose playing has always been a purist's dream.

Four of the twelve cuts here are either by Jimmy Reed or his guitarist Eddie Taylor (including the title cut). Like nearly all the album's songs, including two by Slim Harpo, these are 12-bar shuffles, all executed well by the musicians while maintaining enough of a rough edge to convey a bluesy flavor. Much of the disc, in fact, sounds like live, in-studio, one-off takes.

The songs that stand out are "I Can't Judge Nobody," "Think" (which features Barton trading off with Dykes on vocals to good effect), Reed's "Mary Mary," and "Man Down There." "Since I Met You Baby" is the only tune on the disc that doesn’t use a traditional 12-bar pattern and one of only three that isn't a shuffle; blues and guitar lovers won't care, other listeners may find the closer, Harpo's "King Bee," a been-there, done-that – the disc may be a shade too long.

"Big Town Playboy" is likely to be a very popular disc in blues music circles, for good reason. It is well played, and delivers what is expected – cut after cut of pulsating, dirty blues singing, harp and guitar.

Review by Frank Kocher, a longtime San Diego resident, musician, music collector and frequent contributor to The San Diego Troubadour.

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