The Chris O’Leary Band
Waiting For The Phone To Ring
BluesWax Rating: 8
Developing a Brand
Chris O’Leary spent his early career as a vocalist with Levon Helm and The Barnburners. The Chris O’Leary Band’s first CD, Mr. Used To Be, was nominated for a Blues Music Award and was also a Blues Blast Awards winner for “Best New Artist Debut CD.” This follow up: Waiting For The Phone To Ring is equally exciting.
O’Leary, vocals and harmonica, has put together a talented band, including guitarist Chris Vitarello; Jeremy Baum on piano; the horn section of Andy Stahl, tenor sax and Chris DiFrancesco, baritone sax; and the rhythm section of Sean McCarthy, drums and Frank Ingrao on bass. Willa McCarthy is the background vocalist.
On the opening track, “Give It,” producer Dave Gross provides additional percussion and helps to augment the infectious beat. “Without You” features a nice harp solo by O’Leary. Vitarello’s tasteful guitar opens “Louisiana Woman.” “Pictures of You” features Baum’s piano.
O’ Leary is a soulful vocalist who also wrote all thirteen of the album’s songs, and there isn’t a weak one here. Other highlights include “Hole in My Head” and the title track, “Waiting for the Phone to Ring”, with the lyric “If I’m too low for your standards, what say you lower your standards.” “Questions” and “History” are two bits of New Orleans second line with additional horns added making the overall sound similar to that of Roomful of Blues. Dave Gross has quickly built a reputation as a “first call” producer and he once again proves himself here.
This is a thoroughly enjoyable album. I find it difficult to imagine how good O’Leary might become as this is only his second recording. O’Leary’s future is bright; he is one worth watching.
Richard Ludmerer is a contributing editor at BluesWax.
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