LIVE: The Chris O’Leary Band @ the Bayou, 2/10/12

February 21st, 2012, 1:30 pm by Greg

Review by Fred Rudofsky

There are few things better in life than hearing a band tear it up on a Friday night, in Albany no less. As the the Chris O’Leary Band proved in three dynamic sets at The Bayou, the blues is alive and well, especially here in our own backyard.

O’Leary, an ex-Marine who served an equal stint of six years with Levon Helm’s Barn Burners, fronts a homegrown band that fires on all cylinders. Opening with a swing blues, “I Ain’t Gonna Do It”, O’Leary declaimed with authority in his vocals and harp, locking into a playful banter with the Bonneville Horns, Chris DeFrancesco (baritone sax) and Andy Stahl (tenor sax) that proved to be a hallmark throughout the evening.

The first set was replete with originals from their debut album, “Mr. Used to Be” (VizzTone Records), as well as songs from an upcoming album set for later this year. “I Need You (Like I Need a Hole in My Head)” delivered wit and verve, rooted in some fine drumming by Sean McCarthy and a duet vocal by O’Leary and Willa McCarthy. The Gulf Coast sounds of Excello Records (“Louisiana Woman”) and Mardi Gras (“Tchoupitoulas”) offered fine tempos for even wallflowers to leave the bar and hit the dance floor. “Letters from Home” addressed the blues faced by the soldier overseas, with O’Leary’s slow aching harp paired with Chris Viterello’s agitated guitar bringing to mind vintage Junior Wells and Buddy Guy.

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Nippertown Gets the Blues

December 17th, 2010, 9:54 am by Greg
The Chris O'Leary Band

The Chris O'Leary Band

Congratulations go out to Hudson Valley blues bruisers the Chris O’Leary Band, who found themselves nominated as Best New Artist Debut for their album, “Mr. Used to Be,” when the Blues Foundation in Memphis announced the nominees for the annual Blues Music Awards this week.

Led by singer-harmonicat Chris O’Leary – who was the longtime frontman for Levon Helm & the Barnburners – the band has been regulars at Saratoga Springs’ Caroline Street Arts & Blues Festival for the past several years, and they’re already booked for a once-a-month residency at Gaffney’s in Saratoga Springs this upcoming summer.

And if you don’t think that Nippertown is a hotbed of blues, well then consider this: guitarslinger Buddy Guy and harmonica master Charlie Musselwhite lead the pack with five nominations each. And both of them have upcoming tour stops in the Capital Region, too – Guy at The Egg in Albany on Thursday, March 31; and Musselwhite at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield with Hot Tuna and Jim Lauderdale on Wednesday, February 9.

The Blues Foundation will announce the winners of the 32nd annual Blues Music Awards during ceremonies at the Memphis Cook Convention Center on Thursday, May 5.

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