Blues Matters magazine November 2002

The John O'Leary Band
Abbey Mills Festival London 24th August 2002

Nestled away in the hinterland of South Wimbledon and close to Sainsbury's Sava Centre is a clutch of buildings known as Merton Abbey Mills.....Each year British blues veteran Bob Brunning - looking more like a University lecturer each time I see him - puts together a relaxed local Blues Festival in this setting and as an unwinder after a hards week's work, this collects the custard cream.

The listed acts this year included Marcus Malone, Brunning's Deluxe Blues Band, Earl Gaines, Charles Walker......

I'm here to catch John O'Leary but he attempts to confuse me by having lost his beard and changed his hair style!  With Germany's finest Joachim Greve on drums, Lol Sanford on guitar, big Dave Hadley from Philadelphia on (very) electric bass and Malcolm Bruce on piano, John's first blast on harmonica confirms his identity.

I've said before that O'Leary's sound is very akin to the classic Chicago recordings on Delmark (i.e Junior Wells) and this is at the core of what he plays and sings.  Clearly proud of his line-up, John encourages them all to solo in a relaxed set of standards taking in "Black Cat Bone"," 19 Years Old" and a wrap up "Last Night's Dream/Lonesome Road" in which Hadley persuades early Fleetwood Mac bassist Bob Brunning to take the stand.  A little play safe on number choice for this admittedly brief slot, but John really does have his sound in the pocket and the whole band shines. The highlight for me was the occasional piano excursion by Malcolm Bruce, who throws in Monk-like cadences and complementary chord runs, happily playing across time with sparky confidence and then hitting the chord changes with the ensemble. Pretty damn neat and dad Jack (Bruce) would be proud........Pete Sargeant