Omar Kent Dykes and Jimmie Vaughan

Omar Kent Dykes and Jimmie Vaughan
On The Jimmy Reed Highway

Ruf Records, RUF 1122

By Brian D. Holland
December 2007

Jimmy Reed has often gone unnoticed for being credited with honing a definitive blues sound leading to the infancy of rock ‘n’ roll. His style, one that was very innovative for its time, was extremely intense and rhythmic.

Though his technique has early Chuck Berry written all over it, many references neglect to list the preceding bluesman as an inspiration to the infamous pop rock pioneer. That said, as in the case of many other early rockers, Reed’s impact is easily recognized as evident in the ears of any enlightened blues-rock aficionado.

For blues enthusiasts, especially those of electric guitar with driving rhythms and screeching harmonica notes, the inspiring, entertaining, and exciting music of Jimmy Reed has been brought to life again by two of the biggest and brightest names in modern electric blues: Omar Kent Dykes and Jimmie Vaughan. Throw in a couple of Dykes and Vaughan complimentary originals, as well as a few Eddie Taylor and Willie Dixon songs, and the tribute becomes comprehensive.

Special guests Kim Wilson, Delbert McClinton, James Cotton, Lou Ann Barton, and Gary Clark Junior add variety and spice to the collection.

The opener, “Jimmy Reed Highway,” gets it all going in a Reed mode, with Dykes and Barton belting out lyrical content in reference to the great bluesman and his compositions. Vaughan solos nicely throughout.

This album is a real pleasure for Reed fans. The listener easily grasps the level of commitment brought into each song by the likes of the two standout performers, as Vaughan’s guitar playing has that Reed and Eddie Taylor phrasing all over it. He never overdoes it, as his playing sustains its recognizable modesty - a trait he has long been known for. Dykes adds original gritty vocal flavor to Reed favorites, including: “Baby What You Want Me To Do,” “Good Lover” (with a boisterous Lou Ann Barton), “Caress Me Baby,” and “Hush Hush.”

The twelve-bar fluidity and blues progressions are driven solidly along by an excellent rhythm section. Derek O’Brien’s rhythm guitar flow is definitely worth mentioning, and although Wilson adds some sweet harmonica to many of the tracks, Cotton and McClinton get in on the act in an enthusiastic manner.

The wonderful thing about On the Jimmy Reed Highway is that it rocks in a fashionable manner in 2007 just as much as it would have in 1956. This has much to do with the fact that the style was a lot of fun when it was new, and it still is today. Reed isn’t on it, per se, but the persona of the bluesman, who passed away in 1976 at age 50, is all over it for sure. I think he may have been sitting right in the corner of the studio, eyes closed, a smile on his face and his head bobbing up and down to the tempo.

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