Review: Chris O’Leary – Gonna Die Tryin’

Posted on: Sunday, Nov 8, 2015


Chris O’Leary – Gonna Die Tryin’

(American Showplace Music: ASM5227)

The New York State-based Chris O’Leary is a mighty fine harmonica player and possesses a huge vocal delivery, perfectly suited to the material on “Gonna Die Tryin'” – 11 tracks of varied blues, in the company of a top band who perfectly embellish the music.

Apart from O’Leary himself on vocals, harmonica and guitar, the band comprise: Chris Vitarello (guitar), Andy Stahl (tenor saxophone), Chris DiFrancesco (baritone saxophone), Matt Raymond (bass) and Jay Devlin (drums). Also helping out are some top additional players, including the mighty Bruce Katz, on piano and organ.

I would say definitely not a duff track to be found here, from the opening ‘Wolf like’ “Can’t Help Yourself”, to the closing “Tell It To Me Straight” – a funky blues with some very Albert Collins-like guitar flourishes from Chris Vitarello – all great stuff indeed.

The soulful “Hook, Line & Sinker” bursts out of the speakers, with the horns of Stahl and DiFrancesco to the fore, with guest trombone from Vinnie Nobile, and Bruce Katz’s trademark superb organ playing.

The lengthy slow blues (7:25) of “Letters From Home” is the album’s centre point, with brilliant guitar from Vitarello and Chris O’Leary’s ‘from the heart’ vocal; his harmonica playing is out front on the great shuffle, “Walking Contradiction”, with the band locked into a mighty swinging groove.

A really class offering from a top front man and fine band – ‘true blues’ from start to finish – from a man who has experienced a lot in life, from seven years in the US Marine Corps, and six years as singer/harmonica player with the late, great Levon Helm.

Without doubt “Gonna Die Tryin'” comes highly recommended!


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