“This terrific ensemble will make Mardi Gras last all year long!”

That’s how Rainey Wet­night sums up our live album, Live at Blues Now, in her review in the lat­est issue of Blues­Blast Mag­a­zine. Here’s the full review:

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!

Rainey Wet­night, Blues­Blast Mag­a­zine, Issue 9–7, Feb­ru­ary 12, 2015

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