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'
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.

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!”


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