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

Gonna Die Tryin'

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

First review of our new CD Gonna Die Tryin’!

Gonna Die Tryin'
Gonna Die Tryin'

Gonna Die Tryin’

“Chris O’Leary has a vocal style that could make a believer out of a devout athe­ist and a har­mon­ica style that will burn a hole straight through to the deep­est part of your heart.  There’s just some­thing in his deliv­ery that has the lis­tener hang­ing on every note and every word.  Seven years as a Marine and six years as a mem­ber of Levon Helm’s Barn­burn­ers are enough to con­vince the hard­ened skep­tic that this cat has paid his dues.  If that’s not enough, one lis­ten to this disc will drive the point home.  A band as solid as the Rock of Gibral­tar back­ing his for­mi­da­ble skills is enough to get the point across that Chris O’Leary is 100% the real deal.  Back­ing him on this album are Chris Vitarello on gui­tar, Andy Stahl and Chris Difrancesco on sax­o­phones, Matt Ray­mond on bass and Jay Devlin on drums.  Add the piano & organ work of Bruce Katz, Vin­nie Nobile on trom­bone, and Willa Pan­vini McCarthy & Libby Cabello on back­ground vocals…then add John Mooney as a spe­cial guest on gui­tar, and this tasty treat has the cherry on top.  The fact that O’Leary wrote all the music and lyrics for the album makes him all the more impres­sive.  As impres­sive a word­smith as he is a har­mon­ica player and vocal­ist, this cat is a threat on so many fronts that it’s not funny.  This is one of the most impres­sive, solid blues albums I have heard in quite some time.  There are no gim­micks, no high-tech pyrotech­nics and absolutely no B.S. to be found, just a band pour­ing heart and soul into a per­for­mance.  This one is pow­er­ful and pas­sion­ate, strong as an old loco­mo­tive with a full head of steam and no desire to slow down.  This one gets my high­est rec­om­men­da­tion.  It belongs in the library of every blues lover…without ques­tion.  – Bill Wilson”

You can pre­order the CD now at –it will be released on Sep­tem­ber 18th.

This red hot combo has unleashed a sizzling live album: Live at Blues Now!

Blues Bis­cuits’ Jim Kanavy gives our new live CD, Live at Blues Now!, high marks in his review of the album, not­ing that “this is rock & roll blues at its best.” Here’s the full review:

“Chris O’Leary is the for­mer front man of Levon Helm’s Barn­burn­ers. The Chris O’Leary band was formed in 2007 around a tight group of road war­riors. Chris’ years spent with the Barn­burn­ers, back­ing up an eclec­tic mix of musi­cians at Levon Helm’s New Orleans club, and tour­ing the coun­try after­ward, turned him into a musi­cal medium. He chan­nels a mul­ti­tude of blues & soul styles author­i­ta­tively. It’s hard to believe he grew up closer to Albany, New York than New Albany, Mis­sis­sippi. The blues pours out of his fuzz-drenched, raspy harp and his band is right there with him at every twist and turn. After two suc­cess­ful and acclaimed stu­dio albums, this red hot combo has unleashed a siz­zling live album.

Live At Blues Now! has tunes from both stu­dio albums and a groov­ing, bounc­ing ver­sion of Billy Boy Arnold’s “Wish You Would.” Chris sings some of it through the harp mic and his vocals take on a Howlin’ Wolf snarl. I was really excited to have a live ver­sion of “Tchoupi­toulas” (that’s “Chop-ih-too-liss” to you and me). If “Tchoupi­toulas” doesn’t get you mov­ing you may be dead. Have some­one take your pulse imme­di­ately. Admin­is­ter mouth to mouth as desired. It should have you singing and danc­ing like you’re down at Tipitina’s with the second-line hot on your heels. The whole album, from the opener “Give It” to the closer “His­tory” has incred­i­ble drum­ming. The beats are almost tribal, churn­ing and chop­ping, like waves of the sea surg­ing and reced­ing, thrust­ing the band for­ward, reel­ing rock­ing in rhyth­mic ecstasy.

“On “Trou­ble,” spe­cial guest gui­tarist Alex Schultz rides the rhyth­mic waves like a man who’s con­quered the Pipeline. Chris O’Leary’s harp cuts through like a thrust­ing oar and keeps the band on course. The shim­mer­ing gui­tars of “Louisiana Woman” and lone­some harp con­jure a hoodoo mist across the bayou and “Water’s Risin’” swings, rocks and reels. This is rock & roll blues at its best, com­bin­ing gospel vocals, Chuck Berry rhythms, and duel­ing gui­tars into a spicy gumbo of Amer­i­can music which pretty much encap­su­lates the Chris O’Leary Band. This band is the real deal. Bring the band into your liv­ing room, car, or bayou back porch with Live At Blues Now!”


Get the New CD: Live at Blues Now!

It’s here! Get our 3rd CD “Live at Blues Now!”, recorded in Basel Switzer­land ear­lier this year. It’s avail­able at all your favorite online music stores, iTunes, Google Play,, and more.

Highly Recommended: Waiting for the Phone to Ring

Blues Revue Magazine Review of Waiting for the Phone to Ring

Blues Revue Magazine’s recent review of our sec­ond CD, Wait­ing for the Phone to Ring, praises Chris O. as a mas­ter sto­ry­teller, high­lights the tight knit vel­vety saxes of Andy and Chris D., and pro­claims the band as one of the most inter­est­ing and excit­ing blues bands on the cur­rent scene. Read the full review clipped from the mag­a­zine below.

Blues Revue Magazine Review of Waiting for the Phone to Ring

Blues Revue Mag­a­zine Review of Wait­ing for the Phone to Ring

“Developing a Brand”

Richard Lud­merer, a con­tribut­ing edi­tor at BluesWax, the online weekly for the Blues Revue Mag­a­zine, says that the band’s sec­ond CD, “Wait­ing For The Phone To Ring,” is as excit­ing as their award-winning debut. In his words:

‘Chris O’Leary spent his early career as a vocal­ist with Levon Helm and The Barn­burn­ers. The Chris O’Leary Band’s first CD, Mr. Used To Be, was nom­i­nated for a Blues Music Award and was also a Blues Blast Awards win­ner for “Best New Artist Debut CD.” This fol­low up: Wait­ing For The Phone To Ring is equally exciting.

‘O’Leary, vocals and har­mon­ica, has put together a tal­ented band, includ­ing gui­tarist Chris Vitarello; Jeremy Baum on piano; the horn sec­tion of Andy Stahl, tenor sax and Chris DiFrancesco, bari­tone sax; and the rhythm sec­tion of Sean McCarthy, drums and Frank Ingrao on bass. Willa McCarthy is the back­ground vocalist.

‘On the open­ing track, “Give It,” pro­ducer Dave Gross pro­vides addi­tional per­cus­sion and helps to aug­ment the infec­tious beat. “With­out You” fea­tures a nice harp solo by O’Leary. Vitarello’s taste­ful gui­tar opens “Louisiana Woman.” “Pic­tures of You” fea­tures Baum’s piano.

‘O’ Leary is a soul­ful vocal­ist who also wrote all thir­teen of the album’s songs, and there isn’t a weak one here. Other high­lights include “Hole in My Head” and the title track, “Wait­ing for the Phone to Ring”, with the lyric “If I’m too low for your stan­dards, what say you lower your stan­dards.” “Ques­tions” and “His­tory” are two bits of New Orleans sec­ond line with addi­tional horns added mak­ing the over­all sound sim­i­lar to that of Room­ful of Blues. Dave Gross has quickly built a rep­u­ta­tion as a “first call” pro­ducer and he once again proves him­self here.

‘This is a thor­oughly enjoy­able album. I find it dif­fi­cult to imag­ine how good O’Leary might become as this is only his sec­ond record­ing. O’Leary’s future is bright; he is one worth watching.’

BluesWax Rat­ing: 8

Reprinted from–21-12/#

The first review is in.…“What More Could a Blues Fan Want”

Blues singer and under­rated harp mas­ter Chris O’Leary fol­lows up on his critically-acclaimed release Mr. Used To Be with a new white-hot slab o’ soul ‘n’ blues titled Waitin’ For The Phone To Ring. Thir­teen new orig­i­nal num­bers, pro­duced by tal­ented gui­tarist Dave Gross, lots of gui­tars and horns and, of course, O’Leary’s great voice and har­mon­ica tone…what more could a blues fan want? (Release date: 06/26/12)

The New CD is Out!


Check out this album on iTunes:

Cover Art

Wait­ing for the Phone to Ring

The Chris O’Leary Band


Released: 2012

Welcome to The Chris O’Leary Band

For all of you fans that are anx­iously await­ing the arrival of the next CD, the wait is almost over: Wait­ing for the Phone to Ring will be released on June 26th.

While the first CD, Mr. Used to Be, cat­a­pulted the band into the fore­front of the blues world and brought them well-deserved recog­ni­tion, this new CD proves that The Chris O’Leary Band can fol­low an award-winning first CD with a sec­ond CD that con­firms the band’s evo­lu­tion and musi­cal abil­ity. The reviewer who said “this is a band to watch out for” was right.

Please  check out the band’s gig dates and come buy a new CD in per­son. If you can’t wait for the band to play at a venue near you, go to Ama­zon or iTunes to buy a copy.