Reviews

“On their second release [Waiting for the Phone to Ring], Mr. O’Leary and the band are a blues force to be reckoned with. The songs, all originals, show a range of influences from Los Angeles to New Orleans to New Jersey street corners. Complementing that range of songs is a band that treats each one with respect, always highlighting the music and not their own considerable talents.”
— Nick Delay, WVKR

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“Chris O’Leary’s got it, man, he’s got it. From rollickin’ rock (Give It) to weekend stomp (Without You) to slinkin’ down-lo back-alley swank (Louisiana Woman) to barrelhouse balladry (Pictures of You) and well beyond…and, lord, that’s only the first four of thirteen cuts [on his second CD, Waiting for the Phone to Ring,] delivered with pizzazz, panache, plenty of pig’s feet n’ gumbo, and more than a little pugilistic punch-up all through the blues’ back yard. His ace band knows how to center O’Leary’s vocals while parading all around him, hot and hip but perfectly in control, ac-cen-tu-atin’ the positive, the negative, the questionable, and even the downright nasty.”
— Mark S. Tucker, the Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange

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“Levon Helm’s singing har­mon­ica man leads his crew through a sopho­more set [on Waiting for the Phone to Ring] that is any­thing but sopho­moric. With a jun­gle blues vibe and pow­ered by non-stop energy, this crew has got the blues right in the pocket deliv­er­ing a fun, high octane set that makes the only color in blues blue. If you aren’t inter­ested in hear­ing about pick­ing cot­ton and fight­ing boll wee­vils, this is the stuff for you. Hot stuff.”
— Chris Spector, editor and publisher, Midwest Record

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“Front man Chris O’Leary carries the group …..with a huge shout and force of nature harmonica sound… he generates authority.”
Griel Marcus

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“O’Leary, formerly with Levon Helm’s Barnburners, is a more than capable singer and Chicago-style harmonica stylist; the proof comes in the shuffles and jump numbers he handles with suave assurance on his debut recording. It’s really the slow tempo of Blues is a Woman that draws out his best singing, reminiscent of Jimmy Witherspoon. His Hudson Valley-based cohorts stir up the all-original material without faltering. Young guitarist Chris Vitarello merits notice for his technical powers and imagination, his reach extending to rockabilly and swinging jazz.”
Frank-John Hadley, Downbeat Magazine

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“O’Leary and company have a laid-back sound, but their solid groove and tight ensemble playing and O’Leary’s superlative songwriting make them a powerful unit.”
J. Poet, Rovi

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“This cat spent a long time as Levon Helm’s side kick and you can tell he outgrew the outfit. A first class singer/harp player, [Mr. Used to Be] is more in the tradition of Butterfield but without the Chicago edge … A winner throughout.”
Chris Spector, editor and publisher, Midwest Record

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“O’Leary, who has the crewcut-and-muscles appeal of the former Marine he is, is a forceful harp player, a powerful singer and a natural frontman.”
Kay Roybal, Blues Revue Magazine

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“The Chris O’Leary Band offers a virtual encyclopedia of roadhouse blues styles, from Boogie Woogie to Southside Chicago electric rockin’ to Louisiana Mardi Gras stompers, on the entertaining Mr. Used to Be (Vizztone).”
Jonathan Takiff, Philadelphia Daily News

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“Chris sings in a strong, clear voice and plays a mean harp … It is always good to see new acts writing their own material and not resorting to covers of the usual suspects. The Chris O’Leary Band has produced a varied CD which deserves to get them more attention. A band to watch out for, in my view.”
John Mitchell, Blues Blast Magazine

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Mr. Used to Be, is a rollicking-good-time of a debut from Chris O’Leary, a big-voiced singer who coaxes a huge tone from his harp, and has all the skills of a natural-born frontman.”
Sheryl and Don Crow, Nashville Blues Society

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“O’Leary’s handling of his harp is fat, phat, and where it’s at, thick as a Georgia afternoon buzzing towards a sweltering horizon promising gin joint delights and non-stop git-down. And that, cats ‘n kitties, is precisely what’s delivered… there’s a ton of class throughout [Mr. Used to Be], but it’s the tarnished shine of fallen angels grown more than worldly. Wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Mark S. Tucker, the Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange

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“In forming his own band, [O’Leary] has assembled a cast of premier musicians from New York’s Hudson Valley, and the fun they have playing together comes through on this debut CD [Mr. Used to Be]. So does Mr. O’Leary’s talent as a songwriter on clever and original songs that could have come from a 60’s soul catalogue.”
Nick Delay, WVKR

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“The Chris O’Leary Band’s Mr. Used To Be is a musical tour de force from these top-notch road warriors. [The CD] blends and simmers all its ingredients into a tasty musical treat. It’s a travelogue of sorts, spotlighting stops along the highway where these musicians gained experience, expertise and insight. All the parts add up to authentic, good time music created with care and love of the form. The feeling is contagious.”
Jim Kanavy, American Blues News

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“Chris, while you and your fine band were playing I heard people say, “Who cares about the rest of the show, I just want to hear them all night!” What a strong and impressive set. The Blues World knows that you and your band rock, big time.”
Bob Margolin