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Picture Wolfman Jack fronting a slicker, bluesier version of Creedence Clearwater Revival, and you have a pretty good idea of the sound generated by Omar and the Howlers on their latest release The Screamin’ Cat. A prolific band (this is the trio’s eleventh release in a decade), Kent "Omar" Dykes and company return to familiar territory here a swampy meeting ground of blues, rock and pop after straying into the trendy land of swing on a couple of albums.
The Screamin’ Cat is the musical equivalent of a light summer movie: It’s entertaining but not very substantial. Still, this collection of fast-rockin’, party-hearty tunes should satisfy all those mainland Europeans who’ve taken to the Howlers in a big way.
"When Sugar Cane Was King" and "Bad Ol’ Man" are a couple of fun swamp rockers propelled by Papi Mali’s screaming guitars and Omar’s growly vocals. Omar calls attention to his DJ-like pipes on "Radio Man," a funky novelty number. "Steady Rock" and "Girls Got Rhythm" boogie hard in a style remindful of fellow Texas guitar band ZZ Top. "One Hundred Pound of Joy" owes much to Bo Diddley, who like Dykes, is a native of McComb, Miss.
Unfortunately, a few of the tracks here are overloaded with irritating sound effects. The title cut is an ill-advised blues rap that throbs with nightmarish electronic sounds, while "Too Many People Talkin’" has a title that could serve as its own review.
Still, most of the songs on The Screamin’ Cat are downright catchy, despite their manufactured sound. Omar and the Howlers do with Texas and Gulf Coast blues what Beau Jocque and the Zydeco High-Rollers did with zydeco: they marry pop hooks and contemporary flavorings to an indigenous style of music.