Chris O’Leary – 7 Minutes Late
Chris O’Leary gives us a dozen new songs of what he calls hope and despair with his new CD. Chris has been fronting his own band now for almost ten years after a half dozen years fronting The Barnburners for Levon Helm and serving in the United States Marine Corps prior to that. O’Leary has also appeared with the likes of The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Stones sideman Bobby Keys, Jimmy Vivino, Jeff Healy, Albert Lee, Dave Maxwell, Michael McDonald, Warren Haynes, Steely Dan, Ivan and Cyril Neville, and James Cotton and recorded with Hubert Sumlin and Bill Perry. Not too shabby a resume!
Nominated in 2011 for a Blues Blast Award for Best New Artist Debut CD for “Mr. Used to Be” and Best New Artist Debut for the 2011 American Blues Music Awards, O’Leary has once again shown us his unique songwriting skills and great performing abilities with this new effort. Strong vocal work and poignant and stinging harp work grace this CD. He is joined by Andrei Korbanics on drums/percussion, Matt Raymond on bass, Peter Hopkinson on guitar, Greg Gumpel on guitar, mandolin, and backing vocals, Jeremy Baum on organ/piano, Andy Stahl on tenor sax and backing vocals, and Chris Difrancesco on baritone, tenor and alto saxes, clarinet and backing vocals.
“What the Devil Made Me Do” starts the set. Things begin with a kicking beat and deep bass groove as O’Leary tells us what the devil made him do. His vocals are emotional, the sax is blazing and the guitar work is hot. Next is “Your Day Will Come,” a slow and more than slightly dark and cut about today’s political situation. The guitar and vocals are hauntingly cool. “One More Chance at Love” is next and things pick up a bit. This soulful number is midtempo and O’Leary howls out the lead. The keys are nice, the guitar is solid, there’s a good solo and we finally have Chris break out the harp for some dirty and sweet sounds. Guitar and harp spar to take us out in a high energy call and response. The following song is “Second Time Around,” a nice little bluesy rocker with O’Leary emoting on vocals, a stinging guitar solo and a pretty harp solo.
“She Ain’t Coming Back” is a slow, lazy Delta sort of blues. Chris moans out the lead, the acoustic guitar plays along with the harp and het mandolin flutters in and out. Things start softly but building to a powerful sound as O’Leary testifies about his woman what the title simply says. “Circus Just Left Town” begins with a driving drum beat. Things sound a little swampy and cool as O’Leary and the slide guitar both have some fun. Next up is the title track where things turn down and dark again into a somber cut with mean, mean harp and just an overall stellar piece. The song is about a marriage gone bad due to separations. The wife leaves, the husband follows with a gun, ostensibly to her to bring her home but it turns into a two toe tag affair with a lethal injection as a reward. No winners here, and it’s based on a true story. In the real world we have a multi-tour Afghanistan vets who gets revenge and then killed himself at the scene. “Unbelievable” is a slow and funky soul tune with guitar and organ setting the tone. The song just grabs you and pulls you along for a ride.
The distorted vocals in “Bones,” another dark and deep piece. The slide gives us a nice ride, the harp is sp greasy and it’s another overall fine cut. Superb harmonica work here! “Heartbreak Waiting to Happen” gets things going again tempo wise, but things don’t really get happier as Chris sings to us about a chick who’s ready disappoint. “Driving Me Crazy” is a jazzy NOLA sort of cut with some cool clarinet and horn work and more fine vocals. The CD concludes with “Daddy’s Here,” a simple ballad with vocals and acoustic guitar to start. The electric guitar is added as the emotion rises to add feeling. Chris sings a somber tune about finally being home for his child, a touching and well-done performance.
This is a darker and different Chris O’Leary than we’ve been accustomed to. The songs are edgy and often range from somber to downright depressing. He’s done a great job and shows us a new side to his songwriting and performing. It’s not an album you’ll dance to a lot, but there are cuts to make you listen and take notice. I really enjoyed his take on the doom and gloom in life; the stuff grows on you with each listen. The vocals are superb, the backing musicians are spot on and together. Here we have another fine effort by a real up and coming star!