Blues In Britain Vol. 1 Issue 15
The John O'Leary Band
BB's Blues Club, London  12th January 2003

Review by Bill Smith

John O'Leary was appearing at GJ's with his new band, a very fine line-up of younger musicians who were both talented and polished in their performance.  John was centre stage with strong vocals and his trademark rorty Chicago style harp, which reminded me of  the splendid work of Paul Butterfield, especially on that seminal album "Fathers And Sons" which teamed the fathers in the form of Muddy Waters and Otis Spann with Mike Bloomfield, Butterfield & co.. In the spiritual sense  O'Leary is the father of this band and the sons are Jules Fothergill on guitar, Malcolm Bruce (son of Jack) on keyboards, Dave Hadley a feisty statuesque black American from Atlanta on bass and Joachim Greve from Germany. In the past John has worked with a number of well -known bands including Savoy Brown, The John Dummer Band and Mainsqueeze.  All of these are in some way related to the British Blues Rock boom of the late '60; however this line-up, as I said, has the feel of the Butterfield Blues Band as typified by their East-West album.

The band roared off with the customary harp intro from John on the up-front "Born In Chicago" and it soon became clear just what a  great ensemble sound they made.  Jules was playing very melodic jazzy phrases, which totally complement and help to lift the undoubted power of John's harp. Malcolm Bruce created a subtle interplay wit Dave, on six string bass, and with some fine punctuated drumming from Joachim. "Snatch It Back" featured a fine guitar break and a remarkable bass solo, and on "Early In The Morning" we had a classic song that was done justice by this eloquent line up, with a stand out chordal guitar that was jazzy in feel but eminently robust.

On "Who's Been Talking", that fine Willie Dixon song made famous by Howling Wolf, there was spirited harp with some fine flourishes on drums. On "19 Years Old" we had a fine combination of jazzy keyboards with good complementary bass lines and a frenetic guitar solo masterful in its conception, which progressed to a blistering finish.  The bass/keyboard interchange during this number developed into high comedy with both participants exchanging humorous plesantaries as well as conversing on their respective instruments.  I hasten to add this gave something to the quality of this number and certainly did not detract from it.  The set finished with "Yonder's wall" which utilized the riff from "Help Me" , a suitably uptempo extravaganza with all musical guns blazing.

In the second set, "Don't Let My Baby Ride" featured good lyrical guitar and an equally souldful keyboard solo.  More fine work was heard on "Checkin' On My baby", then guest guitarist Joe Hollywood joined on a slow blues and he showed his undoubted ability among a wealth of solos.  On "Black cat Bone" we were treated to some fine pyrotechnic soloing from Joachim paying his way around the drum kit, and also showing that he has a very fine sense of humour.  On the encore "Champagne" the whole band  soloed and brought the evening to a fitting conclusion.

This is a fine line up, musically adventurous andhighly entertaining....Bill Smith