Sunday, May 26, 2019

Chris O’Leary: “7 Minutes Late” (2019) CD Review

You might know Chris O’Leary from his work with Levon Helm And The Barn Burners, Levon’s blues band, where he sang lead and played harmonica. And for the past decade or so, Chris O’Leary has been releasing albums of his own. His latest, 7 Minutes Late, is a great mix of blues and soul, featuring original music. Joining him on this release are Andrei Koribanics on drums and percussion, Matt Raymond on bass, Peter Hopkinson on guitar, Greg Gumpel on guitar and mandolin, Jeremy Baum on organ and piano, Andy Stahl on tenor saxophone, and Chris Difrancesco on saxophone and clarinet, plus a few guests on certain tracks.

The disc opens with “What The Devil Made Me Do.” A good, steady thumping beat gets things going and gets me excited. Then the song kicks in to become a delicious rhythm and blues tune with a classic style, featuring some nice work on organ and a cool vocal performance. Chris Vitarello joins the group on guitar for this track, and there is a lot of great stuff on guitar. Also, there is a groovy bass line. “When it comes to my heart, baby, now you hold the key/And you jacked that key right down the side of my brand new Mercury.” I really appreciate the twist in those lines. The lyrics also contain a reference to William Congreve, and toward the end a little nod to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Gimme Three Steps.” That’s followed by “Your Day Will Come,” which has a cooler, mellower western sound at the start. The lyrics surprised me. Based on the initial vibe, I wasn’t expecting a political song, but its opening lines are “Say anything to get you elected/Tell the people what they want to hear/Divide and separate, play up the hate/Stoke the devil’s fires of fear.” And I am totally on board. I think we can all appreciate the song’s title line, “Your day will come.” Just please, please, please let that day be soon. Our country can’t take much more of this dreadful administration. Chris O’Leary delivers a soulful vocal performance, and I really love those touches on keys. Check out these lines: “Judge a man on the content of his character/Not on the color of his skin/A killer or a crook/You shouldn’t need the good book/To figure out what constitutes sin.” Man, this song really gets its hooks into you, while its power is sort of understated. It features more delicious work on guitar. Peter Kanaras plays guitar on this track.

“Second Time Around” is a groovy blues rock tune with a solid rhythm. I love Chris O’Leary’s delivery of these lines: “So I asked her what’d I do/What did I do?/But I guess I already knew.” Here he is honest with himself, as well as with us. And, hey, everyone wants a second chance at some point, right? But the woman of this tale isn’t buying it. “It’s going to be a cold day in hell, fool, before you get a second time around, a second chance at me,” she says. That’s followed by “She Ain’t Coming Back,” which begins as a delicious back porch raw acoustic blues tune. I immediately love the vibe of this one. And when it kicks in, it becomes a glorious number, with some powerful vocals. And of course I dig that great work on harmonica. This track features an interesting choice of drum work, a march of sorts. And then, when I thought the song couldn’t possibly get any cooler, suddenly we get a fantastic horn section. And with that drum beat, it takes on something of a New Orleans vibe in that section. Oh man, I love this track. The band’s sexy, slow playing is just perfect. The New Orleans vibe is stronger in “Circus Just Left Town,” a tune that is pure fun. I’m waiting for the circus to leave Washington D.C.  Details of Donald Trump’s funeral have been leaked: his body is to be tossed onto a dung cart, which will be pulled by a clown car through the streets of our capital, while “Yakety Sax” plays over and over. Yeah, it promises to be a fun time for all. In the meantime, we have this song to get us dancing and put us in the mood for a celebration.

The album’s title track, “7 Minutes Late,” is a much more serious affair. I particularly like the harmonica work in the second half of the song, during that moody jam. It seems to tell a story itself. “Bones” comes on strong, with a great blues force. This is raw, slow blues, with plenty of good stuff on harmonica and lines like “He got a hole in his soul that you’re never gonna fill” and “You’ll do anything to feel alive.” “Driving Me Crazy” features more delicious New Orleans vibes. I love the horns. And Chris O’Leary employs a loose vocal style that works perfectly with overall feel of this song. This is a fantastic tune. “It looks like we’re going to straight to hell, so mama let me drive. The album then concludes with “Daddy’s Here,” a mellower and moving acoustic number with a soulful vocal performance.

CD Track List
  1. What The Devil Made Me Do
  2. Your Day Will Come
  3. One More Chance At Love
  4. Second Time Around
  5. She Ain’t Coming Back
  6. Circus Just Left Town
  7. 7 Minutes Late
  8. Unbelievable
  9. Bones
  10. Heartbreak Waiting To Happen
  11. Driving Me Crazy
  12. Daddy’s Here
7 Minutes Late was released on January 18, 2019 through American Showplace Music.

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