Alligator Records is pleased to announce the signing of soulful vocalist, dynamic harmonica master and gifted songwriter Chris O’Leary. His label debut, The Hard Line, will be released on Friday, January 12, 2024. It will be available at all digital services, on CD and on translucent red vinyl LP. O’Leary is among the blues and roots world’s most talented unsung heroes. The Marine veteran, ex-Federal police officer and former lead singer of The Barn Burners (featuring Levon Helm on drums) has walked a hard line from his upstate New York home to stages all over the world. No Depression magazine says, “O’Leary’s voice contains startling emotion…reaching an intensity and emotional rawness [that’s] primal. The performances practically vibrate with an authenticity that stays with you.”
Between his large, athletic frame and his military-style “high and tight” haircut, O’Leary commands attention, singing his indelible original songs with pure, unadulterated soul and playing harmonica with urgent locomotive power. His keenly written songs come directly from his colorful and sometimes harrowing life experiences. A disciple and friend of both The Band’s legendary drummer/vocalist/songwriter Levon Helm and iconic blues harmonica giant James Cotton, O’Leary has been playing professionally since the 1990s, with five previous solo albums to his credit. O’Leary is beyond thrilled to be with Alligator. On The Hard Line, he set his sights high and created what he says is “the best work I’ve ever done. It’s the most focused, most to-the-point album I’ve ever made.”
Alligator Records founder and president Bruce Iglauer is happy to welcome O’Leary into the Alligator family. “What first struck me about Chris was his terrific songwriting, which ranged from hilarious tales to soul-deep personal stories. I love the passion he puts into every song. As a musician, he’s a world-class harmonica player (and a fine guitar and bass player) but his goal is not to show off his chops. He plays emotional solos that tell the story of the lyrics and heighten the impact of the song.”
The Hard Line, produced by O’Leary and featuring 12 striking originals, has many stories to tell. With over 30 newly-written, never-recorded songs to choose from (mostly written during the downtime of the pandemic) O’Leary and Iglauer carefully picked what Chris calls “the best of them all.” The wildly energetic original song Lost My Mind premieres today. Watch the visualizer video below.