Chris O’Leary review…September 11, 2015…

CHRIS O’LEARY

GONNA DIE TRYIN’

AMERICAN SHOWPLACE MUSIC  ASM  5227

CAN’T HELP YOURSELF–19 CENTS A DAY–HOOK, LINE, AND SINKER–GONNA DIE TRYIN’–LETTERS FROM HOME–THE DEVIL DROVE TO TOWN IN A V8 FORD–THE MACHINE–WALKING CONTRADICTION–HARVEST TIME–ONE MORE SATURDAY NIGHT–TELL IT TO ME STRAIGHT

We first met Chris O’Leary at the 2011 Blues Music Awards when he performed at the pre-show party in support of his nomination for Best New Artist Debut.  He’s just gotten better with each successive release, and “Gonna Die Tryin” is no different.  Chris spent seven years in the USMC, and six years as the harpman/bandleader for Levon Helm’s Barnburners, making him a veteran of many a Midnight Ramble in upstate New York.  Those life experiences show up in his socially-conscious songwriting, as he writes from the heart, and thru the eyes of a man who’s “been there.”

Evidence the minor-key slow-blues of “Letters From Home.”  Chris Vitarello’s crying guitar opens this poignant tale of many war vets who are “terrified and lonesome,” and whose only solace comes from those much-needed “mail calls.”  A stomping, percussive beat rides Chris’ story of how many of us in the workforce feel–“we’re all just part of The Machine.”  This one features piano from one of our favorite players, Bruce Katz.  “Hook, Line, And Sinker” is a fine shot of horn-driven dance floor funk, and Bruce turns in some mighty fine B-3 work over Chris’ harp in the Biblically-themed title cut, explaining that ” razor-thin line between righteousness and dyin.”

We had three favorites, too.  A tune that we thought was a sweet rememberance of Levon follows a second-line rhythm pattern.  It’s the story of Wanda and Charlie and their “illegal agriculture,” where everything revolves around “Harvest Time.”  John Mooney’s on the guitar, too.  A rockin’ tale of lust, temptation, greed, John Dillinger and Robert Mitchum follows ole Satan as “The Devil Drove To Town In A V8 Ford.”  And, another societal tune is built over a Hooker-like “endless boogie” as the outsourcing of American jobs overseas for “Nineteen Cents A Day” strikes a deep chord within Chris as he hammers home his point.

Chris O’Leary is a natch’l-born frontman, and his experiences as a soldier and musician create a deep well from which to create songs.  “Gonna Die Tryin” has it all–excellent musicians and thoght-provoking lyrics delivered by a powerhouse singer!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

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