KENT "OMAR" DYKES grew up in Mississippi's motherlode blues country and moved to Austin at the start of the Texas capital's rhythm & blues renaissance.
Omar & the Howlers' 1980 debut album, "Big Leg Beat" was a fun but unexceptional update of Chicago blues styles. His brand new follow-up, "I Told You So," features nine Dykes compositions, a stripped-down trio and a bold attempt to move beyond revivalism into something original. It works about half the time.
On his best songs, Dykes comes up with a clever if simple lyrical idea and grabs whatever influences he needs to make that idea work. "Border Girl" uses a speeded-up combination of Texas blues and rockabilly to tell a Romeo and Juliet tale about an Anglo guy and a Mexican girl; "Give me a Chance" similarly resembles the Blasters' vigorous reworking of roots-rock. "I'm Wise to You, Baby" uses a rollicking Chicago blues arrangement to deliver its wisecracking warning.
Unfortunately, Dykes' gruff voice and predictable guitar solos aren't special enough to carry the more derivative material, which updates Bo Diddley and Albert Collins without adding much.
OMAR & THE HOWLERS -- "I Told You So" (Austin, ARLP 8401); appearing Saturday at Friendship Station.