Review: Chris O’Leary – The Hard Line


Chris O’Leary – The Hard Line

Chris O’Leary – The Hard Line
Format: CD – Vinyl LP – Digital / Label: Alligator Records
Release: 2024

Tekst: Pascal Wilhelm

“There ain’t no surgical procedure for a fool that lost his mind”

  Lost my mind – Chris O’Leary

No, Chris O’Leary certainly hasn’t lost his mind. On his sixth record, his debut on the Alligator Label (release date: January 12, 2024) he delivers powerful all-original material with his, in his own words, fantastic band. And that is certainly no gushy remark.

Chris is a talented singer and lyricist and his harmonica playing is reminiscent of the likes of James Cotton and William Clarke. He is serious, tough as nail. A U.S. marine veteran, former police officer, father of his son Jackson a most likely a great stepdad for the two children of his newly wedded wife.

‘Muddy’s Hard’ again hit him hard and, struck by James Cotton’s lightnin’ his father gave him his first Hohner Marine band harp. He got his chops in Levon Helm’s Barnburners, playing and singing night after night for many years.

After some hard times, he is now playing, writing, and taking care of the bookings of his band 24/7. ‘The Hard Line (also on vinyl) offers twelve tracks ranging from hard-ballin’ up-tempo rhythm ‘n blues to deep ballads and old-school Chicago blues. His great voice and heartfelt lyrics (“I cry at night, so no one sees my tears”) truly carry this album.

It is commendable that he puts the song first and that musical virtuosity (Chris Vitarello is an ace guitar player) follows. Some blues fans may not appreciate the modern-sounding mix of the record (Blaise Burton, Bruce Iglauer), but if you listen to the record carefully, you will hear what he and his band will sound like in a small venue or blues club. Exciting! Somebody bring Chris O’Leary and his band to Europe for the summer blues festivals please! 

01. No Rest
02. Lost My Mind
03. Ain’t That A Crime
04. My Fault
05. I Cry At Night
06. Things Ain’t Always What They Seem
07. Lay These Burdens Down
08. Need For Speed
09. You Break It, You Bought It
10. Who Robs A Musician?
11. Funky Little Club On Decatur
12. Love’s For Sale