The John O'Leary band

"Sins"  JOLCD001

This album goes to the top of my play list not because it’s the greatest album ever made, but quite simply it’s the most successful fusion of traditional and contemporary blues grooves for as long as I can remember.  In many ways this isn’t even a blues album, sure John opens with the impressive brace of “Early In The Morning” and an excellent reading of Junior Wells “Snatch It Back & Hold It”, but the thing that makes this album more interesting is the tension that underlies some top quality playing from a well drilled road band.  John’s harp playing is authoritative throughout, and he soulful rap on “Blue water”, which offers the subject matter for the album’s title.  Meanwhile on their three appearances together, the twin guitar attack of producer Jules Fothergill and his guitar accomplice Tim O’Sullivan constantly strains at the leash. The rhythm section of bassist David Hadley-Ray and Joachim Greve on powerful drums, push the front line players, and when required Belgian keyboard player Dominique Vantomme adds some sumptuous fills and in the case of “Who’s talking”, he weighs in with a quite beautifully judged solo on which each note is delicately and deliberately delivered – a welcome case of the space between the notes adding to the dynamics.  This number has real presence, feel, and is a deep blues outing and is the album highlight

 The juxtaposition of the above with the rocker “Waiting For You” – complete with searing backing vocals from Lorna Reilly, and a flighty jazzy solo from Jules followed by O’Leary’s pithy harp, shows the variety of the band’s oeuvre. The album also contains two instrumentals.  The funky “And Everything” is underpinned by Greve’s tick-tock percussive pattern and is topped by some steely guitar lines.  It’s an impressive piece, yet sans O’Leary feels strangely like well played 70s anonymous fusion (though to be fair it does feel a bit like Larry Carlton). “Chiswick Roundabout” on the other hand is driven by O’Leary’s warm harp signature and pushed along by another impressive performance by the rhythm section, and all in all feels more like a band effort. As I suggested at the outset not everything works, notably, “House of Ice” on which several verses are only rescued by a resonant chorus, while former Savoy Brown vocalist Dave Walker brings a curious early Stan Webb style warble to “I’m Tired”.  The albums only full blown shuffle, “Move Away” is another highlight as O’Leary blows fiercely over Jules mesmerising slide guitar, before the twin guitars duel away into the sunset. Guitarists Fothergill and O’Sullivan work towards an impressive outro but the sudden frenetic interplay begs the question what happened to the harp? The closing gospel feel of “Save My Soul” rounds off a veritable fine effort that if officially released in 2005 should stay the course as one of the blues influenced albums of the year. Finally a word for Jules Fothergill’s intuitive production, which if at times a little scissors and paste does bring out the exciting moments of some fine band playing.  Also, for |John O’Leary, for having the vision to bring a contemporary feel to what remains essentially blues at the core…..Pete Feenstra  

.....the new name for the john o'leary band