Kyle Deibler lavishes praise on our live CD, Live at Blues Now, in the October/November 2014 issue of Blues Bytes, with a delightful and detailed analysis of each track on the CD. If you don’t have the album yet, this review should convince you to get your copy now! Here’s the full story:
A former Marine, Chris O’Leary, has certainly paid his dues to his country and to the Blues while fronting Levon Helm’s Barn Burners for several years. Throw in the death of his good friend and drummer, Sean McCarthy, and you can tell that Chris has endured his share of trials and tribulations over the past couple of years. In a disc dedicated to Sean, Live at Blues Now, Chris and the band give an over the top performance for the good folks of Basel, Switzerland. Sound man Dave Muscheidt did an outstanding job of capturing the band’s live performance, and having Alex Schultz as the guest guitarist is simply the cherry on top. It’s time to give this gem another listen.
The band starts out with “Give It” and the back end with Matt Raymond on bass and Jay Devlin on drums set the tone for this tune. Chris’s harp is added to the mix and I hear a bit of baritone sax from Chris DeFrancesco, as Chris pleads his case for love with the object of his affections. “You’ve been sad and only…so many times before…will you be my one and only…I’ll give you what you’re asking for…give it…to me baby…give it.” Alex’s fretwork is incendiary and we’re off and running with it here. Throw in Andy Stahl’s tenor sax and the horns are front and center as we move onto “Trouble.” “I don’t know how I got here…Lord, knows where I’ve been…I’m talking trouble…I’ve been living in…I’d better get it all together….for all this trouble I’ve been living in.” Chris doesn’t really expound on exactly what the trouble was but at least he’s willing to change his ways and begin to move forward.
Alex is back on the guitar and I’m wishing I was in Basel for this show. Next up is “Louisiana Woman,” and given that Chris says it’s a true story we’d all better be careful down on the Bayou. “Creole Woman…all’s you had to say…don’t worry, Cher…laissez les bon temps roulez…I’ll still cross my heart…for it’s too late…knock on wood…I don’t want to tempt fate.” Chris’s mournful harp tones echo the magic to be found in the air, and it sounds like Chris was a wise man to avoid the temptations of the Louisiana women.
The crowd’s applauding as the band kicks it up a notch for Chris’s next cut, “Walk the Walk.” “Can’t run…but you sure can hide…I got a plan to be your man….I’ll do everything I can…keep you warm when it’s cold outside…you can talk the talk…but can you walk the walk?” Chris is in love but this woman may not have the game she needs to back up her talk. Let’s hope that Chris is right with this one. We move on to “Water’s Risin’,” and this is a tune that Chris wrote with Levon Helm. “I hope you can swim…honey, our relationship might sink.” They’re experiencing some rough times together but hopefully they’ll be ok. “Going down…water’s rising…taking on water…I hope you can swim, baby, our relationship might sink”
Jay’s toms are setting the pace for our next cut, “I Wish You Would,” and I hear Chris’s baritone sax every now and then. Chris is singing into his harp mic and it gives his voice a unique twist for this tune. “Early in the morning…bout the break of day…I’m guessing my baby went away…please, baby baby…give me one more try…you know I love you…want to be your man…come back baby…I wish you would.” This girl’s gone and I’m thinking Chris is not going to get this one back.
“Mr. Used to Be” gives a different twist to the same old story. Chris is glad this one’s gone and whatever she does, please don’t come back. “I do wish I could have known…I had to share you with the rest of the town…I do not miss you, baby…don’t you come home to me…I’m perfectly happy…being your Mr. used to be.” Good riddance to bad rubbish in this case, and Chris is more than happy to move on.
Our next cut, “Blues is a Woman,” has that late night, last call, club feel to it from way back in the day. Alex is laying down some extremely mournful tones on his guitar and the mood for this song is perfectly clear. “Blues is a woman…and she don’t mean me no good…she never does like she ought to…low down woman…never does like she should.” I love the tones form Andy’s tenor sax in the background and it’s clear that whatever this woman did to Chris, she hurt him badly and it’s time he let her go.
Chris has the crowd singing along with him on the next tune, “King of the Jungle.” “King of the jungle…man, he’s the king of the jungle…he’s the baddest cat around.” You know he’s tough if the lions, tigers and grizzlies all give him the right of way. This is a fun tune and a welcome relief from the somber tone of “Blues is a Woman.” Jay’s snare is at the forefront to give “Tchoupitoulas” a New Orleans flare as Chris tells us about this small town in Louisiana. “This small town…ain’t no destination…people only passing through…take a walk…down Tchoupitoulas…you never you know what you might find…let that muddy Mississippi…wash all your cares behind.” A quick place to pause and reflect but a definitely a destination to leave behind.
Chris’s baritone sax is at the forefront of the intro to our next cut, “Waiting for the Phone to Ring.” “Hey Rapunzel…I know your tower ain’t no fun…you know it bound to happen…I might as well be the one…I’ve proper questionable raising…but I’ve got proper table manners…in fact…instead of lowering your standards….what’s say you lower your stance.” Chris is working hard to charm this one but I’m not sure Rapunzel is going to fall prey to his charms. But if she does, oh Lord,look out!
The saxes provide the perfect foil to Chris’s harp as the band heads into the final cut on our disc, “History.” “Oh when I seen your apple…you know I made your orchard my home.” Chris has an answer for all of the heroines from the past and he’s more than happy to include them in his new version of “history.” Alex just kills his fretwork on this last tune and there’s no doubt the good folk of Basel, Switzerland witnessed an amazing show at Blues Now.
This is Chris O’Leary’s third disc out on the Fidellis Records/Vizztone Label Group and it’s a good one. Dave Gross did an amazing job of mastering the live recording and the Chris O’Leary Band definitely tore the roof off of Blues Now that fateful night in March.
Chris is based in the Hudson River Valley and the lessons he learned at the hands of the master, Levon Helm, are readily apparent. Alex Schultz’s fretwork is amazing and I’ve enjoyed this disc tremendously. You can learn more about Chris O’Leary and his band on their website, www.thechrisolearyband.com, and grab a copy of this live disc for yourself. After that, pour yourself a cold one and turn it up loud!