Omar Kent Dykes & Jimmie Vaughan : On the Jimmy Reed Highway

For more than three decades, Omar Kent Dykes has fronted Omar & the Howlers, a premiere blues band heavily influenced by the stripped down, harmonica-driven Mississippi blues of Jimmy Reed.  When Dykes decided it was time to record a solo album, he decided to honor his inspiration by recording many songs that the “Big Boss Man” made famous in the 50s and 60s.

On the Jimmy Reed Highway is the result; a disc that is at times country, other times blues, yet always rock and roll. Dykes’ muddy, growling vocals were cut live in the studio, sans overdubs, at the same time the band laid down the instrumental tracks.  Jimmie Vaughan, originally brought in to cut just a couple of tracks, plays an integral role throughout, replicating the Eddie Taylor guitar style, driven by playing the bass beat on the guitar, that was so often characterized as the “Jimmy Reed sound.”

In addition to the song that gave rise to Reed’s “Big Boss Man” nickname, other classic tracks found here include “ Caress Me Baby,” “Aw Shucks, Hush Your Mouth,” and “Baby, What’s Wrong.” Dykes original tracks are equally as impressive, particularly the opening track, “Jimmy Reed Highway,” an homage to his hero. 

Guest artists include Delbert McClinton, Gary Clark Jr., Kim Wilson, and Lou Ann Barton (who performs a sweltering duet with Dykes on “Good Lover”), as well as harmonica legend and Reed contemporary, James Cotton. With bandleader Derek O’Brien arranging a rotating rhythm section that remains spot-on throughout, On the Jimmy Reed Highway is an excellent recording that is nothing short of pure musical bliss.

On the Jimmy Reed Highway is out now on Ruf Records.