Another great review: “Chris and the band give an over the top performance”

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!

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One Response

  1. Judy M

    I just lis­tened to the new live CD over the week­end. Wicked awe­some. Each of the band mem­bers is top notch. The blend of their sounds just blows me away. The qual­ity of the record­ing was excellent.

    December 22, 2014 at 10:37 am