CD: 12 Songs; 74:36 Minutes
Styles: Contemporary Electric and Harmonica Blues, Ensemble Blues, Blues Rock
February is the time for the Super Bowl, Valentine’s Day, Presidents’ Day, and Fat Tuesday. Mardi Gras is fast approaching, and a great way to celebrate it is by grooving to feisty New Orleans blues by New York’s Chris O’Leary Band. According to their promotional info sheet, “In March 2014, the Chris O’Leary Band traveled to Basel, Switzerland to perform at the prestigious BLUES NOW! concert series. Joining the band as a special guest was renowned blues guitarist Alex Schultz. Schultz’s storied musical career includes long associations with blues harmonica players William Clarke, Rod Piazza and Lester Butler….” With that said, Chris O’Leary is destined to join the ranks of these hallowed harp masters. In his band’s concert set of twelve songs – eleven originals and one cover – they set Switzerland’s blues-cravers on fire!
Alongside O’Leary on vocals and harmonica are Chris Vitarello on guitar, Andy Stahl on tenor saxophone, Chris DiFrancesco on baritone sax, Matt Raymond on upright and electric bass, and Jay Devlin on drums. As mentioned earlier, guitarist Alex Schultz lends his electric expertise. Together they play high-voltage ensemble blues that takes no prisoners, powerfully combining the influences of the Windy City, Memphis, and the “Big Easy”. Of their original numbers, these three are proof that worldwide blues fans will love them just as much as the Swiss did.
Track 01: “Give It” – The band’s opener is a gritty blues-rock ballad featuring a shady narrator: “Well, you ain’t got no money. I can’t hold down no job. If you would be my honey, well, I’d beg, steal and rob. Give it to me, baby!” The guitar solo in the middle is a five-alarm inferno, as are Chris O’Leary’s vocals and harmonica.
Track 05: “Water’s Risin’” – BLUES NOW!’s crowd claps along to track five, a warning of stormy weather when it comes to romance: “I hope you can swim, honey – our relationship might sink.” The best part of this song is the infectious background chorus of “Water’s risin’, taking on water….” Once again, the mid-song fretwork is fabulous.
Track 08: “Blues is a Woman” – With a slow-burning, Stevie Ray Vaughan-style guitar intro, number eight is blues as pure as Swiss mountain air. “Blues is a woman, and she don’t mean me no good. She never does like she ought to, no, that woman never does just like she should.” Every concert contains at least one selection that’s perfect for slow dancing, and this is IT.
The band’s promotional material reveals: “Chris O’Leary has put in his time on the front lines – as U.S. Marine Corps infantry squad leader, and seven years as singer, harp player, and front man for Levon Helm’s Barn Burners.”
With its considerable instrumental talent, vivacious energy, and award credentials, this terrific ensemble will make Mardi Gras last all year long!