Blues In Britain, Vol. 1 Issue 76 2007

The John O'Leary Band

The Harbourside Blues Club, Liverpool Marina 

Wednesday, 21 February 2007  

Continuing the outstandingly high standard of blues gigs at The Harbourside Club, the John O'Leary Band delivered two sets of superlative quality. Supplementing the trio of founder members (O'Leary on vocals and harp, Jules Fothergill on guitar and Joachim Greve on drums), Roger Innis on bass guitar and Julian 'Mr Jools' Grudgings on keys completed the best yet line-up of this magnificent band.

The fact that nearly two hours of performing covered only twelve numbers, including an encore, fully indicates the length and frequency of individual cameos from all the band members. In the hands of less than brilliant musicians, that formula has the potential to be self-indulgently boring. In the event, each solo was a refreshing delight. Even the familiar content of the sets are forgivable, as each number is so well delivered. The mix is also a finely balanced programme of shuffles, slow blues and up-tempo favourites. 

The rich tone of John O'Leary's harp work was particularly well enhanced by the sublime artistry of Jules Fothergill on guitar. He seems to get better and better with each appearance, combining sensitive phrasing with exceptional fingering speed. He is now undoubtedly in the very top rank of UK blues guitarists. Inniss and Grudgings have added considerably to the mix with their individual flair, the former's bass guitar solos a match for many a lead guitarist; while Joachim Greve's drumming is simply incredible. To select highlights seems superfluous, but 'Early In The Morning', 'Who's Been Talkin'?' and 'Black Cat Bone' were especially well presented, with Greve's drum solo on the last named number positively awesome.