Every so often you’re lucky enough to see a band and realize that everything is just right. The right personalities, the right arrangements, the right instruments, the right attitude… everything just comes together perfectly. “Tight” doesn’t describe it. Bands that rehearse and work hard and can stop and start on a dime are tight. Bands that know each other like the back of their hands are something special. - Review by Eric Gleason.


Join Us at Daryl’s House Club on July 15th!

ChrisO'LearyPosterWe’re excited to be play­ing this new venue for the first time, and we’ll be singing tunes from our upcom­ing CD and other new songs, plus plenty of your old favorites. This will be our only Hud­son Val­ley appear­ance in July, as we’ll just be back from our Euro­pean Tour and get­ting ready to head out on our west­ern US tour at the end of the month. Come on out and join us! This is a small venue and may sell out, so get your tick­ets now!

Gonna Die Tryin’: “Clearly one of the best releases of 2015″

Another stel­lar review of our new CD, Gonna Die Tryin’, appears in the lat­est issue of Big City Blues Mag­a­zine. Here’s the com­plete review:

2015 was a year that saw a num­ber of impres­sive harmonica-led record­ings. For this writer’s money, Chris O’Leary stood at the head of the class. With a fat tome that some­times reminds of William Clarke, O’Leary is an excep­tion­ally impres­sive song­writer and vocal­ist, as well. He’s as steeped in real life as he is in poetic paint­ing. On the opener, Can’t Help Your­self (“If you want to do it/ ahead and just say screw it.”) Chris Vitarello’s gui­tar is fluid and sting­ing. O’Leary blows crys­tal clear harp. 19cents a day is a glimpse into the real­ity of war (“A pat on the back/HR will show you the door/when they fin­ish screwin’ dad they’ll send junior off to war/3 years in the guard he’s on tour num­ber 2 when it’s some­one else’s son it’s an easy thing to do/See we appre­ci­ate your ser­vice sir, but sir you’ve got to go … I’m sure they can help you down at the VA/where they fly Old Glory proudly/for 19 cents a day”). Bruce Katz burns up the B3 on this. Hook Line and Sinker has a horn vamp (Andy Stahl, tenor sax and Chris DiFrancesco, bari­tone sax) that reminds of the Otis Redding/Carla Thomas tune Tramp. The gui­tar work is straight out of Mus­cle Shoals. O’Leary’s vocals are as strong as most any­one out there. Part Kim Wil­son, part Tad Robin­son. The title cut (“There’s gonna be some killin’ … /it’s a razor thin line between right­eous­ness and dyin’/ make your mind up quick or you’re gonna die tryin’/things ain’t men­tioned in polite conversation/one nation under god ain’t a lit­eral trans­la­tion…”) is brilliant.

Let­ters From Home is a slow blues writ­ten from a marine’s per­spec­tive. (“I’m ter­ri­fied and lonesome/about a thou­sand miles away from home/desert wind chills me to the bone/Mail call’s about the only thing keeps a man sane/in this god for­saken com­bat zone….I need your let­ters from home.” Again, Vitarello’s gui­tar work is impres­sive. The Devil Drove to Town in a V8 Ford is a work­out for every­one on board. O’Leary’s writ­ing, here as else­where on the disc, is as impres­sive as the best of Spring­steen or any other acknowl­edged mas­ter. Emo­tive, cin­e­matic. He sings, “Jesus said you got noth­ing for me/So be gone and tempt me no more/The Devil jumped into his coupe/and started up that V8 Ford.” The Machine show­cases his excel­lent harp work while bemoan­ing the drudgery of get­ting by. Walk­ing Con­tra­dic­tion (“throw me to the wolves and just let it all go.”) is hard core Chicago. Har­vest Time, with its piano, drum, bass, and horns is the story of a man steal­ing elec­tric­ity from his neigh­bors (“I got a two year plan to get me off the grid.”) and doing “some ille­gal agri­cul­ture when the sun goes down.” The addi­tion of back­ing vocal­ist Libby Cabello gives it a cross between church and fes­ti­val. One More Sat­ur­day Night speaks to the fall­out from tour­ing (“I gave you all I had and you still walked away … the bad was pretty awful but the good was pretty great”) and spot­lights O’Leary’s pow­er­ful harp work. Every­thing works. Strong vocals, a com­mand of the lan­guage and mus­cu­lar harp work. Clearly one of the best releases of 2015. —Mark E. Gallo

“Gonna Die Tryin’ is full of first-rate musicianship”

Our lat­est album gar­ners this acco­lade and more from reviewer Marty Gun­ther, in the lat­est issue of Blues Blast Mag­a­zine. Here’s a reprint of the full review:

Vet­eran New York singer/harmonica player/guitarist Chris O’Leary is a tal­ented, down-to-earth blues­man who speaks from his heart, and that’s clear as a bell for Gonna Die Tryin’, his lat­est imprint on the Amer­i­can Show­place label.

A true Amer­i­can hero who spent seven years in the U.S. Marines, O’Leary’s approach deals dif­fer­ently from many harp play­ers on the scene today. After his dis­charge, he spent six years as front man for Levon Helm’s band, The Barn­burn­ers, recorded with Hubert Sum­lin and Bill Perry. He deliv­ers straight-ahead blues with a mod­ern feel, aided by horns, which take his sound to another level while giv­ing him space to deliver his ample vocal skills.

This is Chris’ fourth release since suc­cess­fully mak­ing his debut as a solo record­ing artist in 2010 with Mr. Used To Be. That album earned the 2011 Blues Blast Music Award for best New Artist Debut Release. O’Leary’s most recent work, Live At Blues Now!, was a 2015 BBMA nom­i­nee for Live Album Of The Year. He’s backed here by his reg­u­lar align­ment of Chris Vitarello (gui­tar), Andy Stahl and Chris DiFrancesco (tenor and bari­tone saxes), Matt Ray­mond (bass) and Jay Devlin (drums). They’re aug­mented by Bruce Katz on keys, Vin­nie Nobile on trom­bone and Willa Pan­vini McCarthy and Libby Cabello on back­ing vocals.

All of the mate­r­ial here is orig­i­nal, and O’Leary writes about what he knows, some of it humor­ous, some reek­ing with images of the bat­tle­ground, as he paints a clear pic­ture of life in 21st Cen­tury Amer­ica. Dur­ing the Viet­nam era, it wasn’t unusual for a blues artist to record songs about the hor­rors of war. Today, how­ever, O’Leary is in the minor­ity as he describes cur­rent war­zones and their effect on valiant folks who serve.

A catchy riff from Vitarello, who’s stel­lar through­out, intro­duces “Can’t Help Your­self,” the first cut, the story of Bay­onne Bobby, a tat­tooed ne’er-do-well who’s vowed to set­tle down with a good woman and make his mother proud. Despite his efforts, how­ever, he sim­ply can’t get out of his own way. O’Leary sug­gests it’s time to stop try­ing to be some­one else, fin­ish­ing the num­ber with an elec­tri­fy­ing harp solo that stops just short of distortion.

“19₵ A Day” fol­lows with a lyri­cally rapid-fire take on one of the biggest com­plaints work­ers deal with today: com­pa­nies out­sourc­ing labor to places where folks will toil for the mea­ger wages of the song’s title. The mil­i­tary theme makes its first appear­ance with ref­er­ences about the gov­ern­ment turn­ing its back on dis­en­fran­chised vet­er­ans who find them­selves being shut­tled from one agency to another, unable to secure jobs, unless elec­tion time is near and politi­cians actu­ally do some­thing to help in order to sway votes.

“Hook, Line And Sinker,” a love song deliv­ered with a Mem­phis feel backed by the horn sec­tion, fol­lows before the theme dark­ens once more. “Gonna Die Try­ing” pro­vides a funky, hor­rific view of bat­tle using Sam­son vs. the Philistines for imagery before it evolves into visions of men with guns who have Satan in their ears spurring them on for more blood­shed. He’s got “the rules of engage­ment and the worst of inten­tions,” O’Leary says, and “there’s a razor-thin line between right­eous­ness and dyin’.” The theme con­tin­ues with “Let­ters From Home,” a seven-minute slow blues opus that details the power of receiv­ing mail and phones from loved ones when at the front line.

“The Devil Drove To Town In A V8 Ford” and “The Machine” are both clever, per­co­lat­ing blues. The first depicts the bat­tle between good and evil with rich visual metaphors, the sec­ond being trapped in the pit­falls of every­day work­ing life. O’Leary puts his harp skills on dis­play for the care­fully con­trolled “Walk­ing Con­tra­dic­tion,” which describes a woman who never ceases to amaze, before “Har­vest Time,” a love song with a funky South­ern feel and lush horn arrange­ments. The lop­ing “One More Sat­ur­day Night” fol­lows before “Tell It To Me Straight” brings the disc to a close.

From the descrip­tion of the songs above, you’d think that O’Leary’s basi­cally a hard-edged Marine, but don’t be fooled. He’s really a softy at heart. He ded­i­cated the album to his new­born son Jack­son, and the pair are depicted in a truly heart­warm­ing image in the packaging.

Gonna Die Tryin’ is full of first-rate musi­cian­ship through­out, and O’Leary’s band is def­i­nitely a group on the rise. But it’s the mate­r­ial that truly shines. Avail­able from Ama­zon, iTunes or directly from the label’s web­site. I’m def­i­nitely going to set this album aside for the end of the year and future award consideration.

Happy New Year from The Chris O’Leary Band!

The COB-MaggieStahlPhoto

A happy and healthy new year to all our fans, fam­ily, and friends! We hope that you’ll come out to see us play at a venue near you in 2016. We’ve already got sev­eral tours lined up in the US and we’ll be back in Basel, Switzer­land in June. Check out our updated cal­en­dar, we’ll be adding more shows as they get booked. We’ve got lots of great music and new tunes to play for you. Thank you for your support!

Blues Blast Magazine Interviews Chris O’Leary

cover9_50medium“‘Play the song.’

“A rather sim­ple and innocu­ous lit­tle com­ment, isn’t it?

“Could be some­thing as inno­cent as a request directed at a disc jockey or a plea from an impa­tient club owner to a belea­guered band.

“But no, this time those three words are a nugget of advice from one of the most leg­endary and well-respected musi­cians in the annals of mod­ern music – Mr. Levon Helm.

““That’s one of the great­est pieces of advice he gave me. Play the song, don’t use the song for what­ever it is you’re try­ing to do … like get­ting up there and show­ing off or show­ing every­body what you know. I remem­ber him telling a gui­tar player, ‘There’s a lot of notes, did you really have to play all of them?’” said singer, song-writer, harpist and band­leader Chris O’Leary. “He would say, ‘Play the song. Go up there and if you’re solo­ing, if you’re singing or if you’re play­ing rhythm, for­ward the song. What­ever the song may be, sup­port it. That’s a les­son that has car­ried me – among a zil­lion oth­ers that he taught me.””

Read the rest of the inter­view by Terry Mullins in the Decem­ber 10, 2015 issue of Blues Blast Magazine