April 2002 Issue
John O’Leary with Pointblank Blues Band.  ITMM Records CD 4093

Original Savoy Brown harpist leads a double life – he plays here (UK) with various artists, including young Andy Cortes’s crew (and is starting a new UK band of his own) and also plays with this very confident group of Belgrade musicians. That is Dragoljub Crncevic (gtr), Darko Grujic (keyboards), Zoran Milenkovic (bass) and Jovan Pejcinovic (drums).  This collection was cut in Yugoslavia in late 2001, but John’s playing and singing drops a large helping of his favoured Chicago style right into the middle of the proceedings.  Starting out with just vocal before the band and blazing harp fall in. “Gimme A Reason”, sets the pleading tone of many of the songs here; human foibles and pleasures being a natural topic for any bluesman.  O’Leary is no exception to the rule.The harmonica tone is Musselwhitish, the way it is recorded; however John’s phrasing is his own as anyone seeing him at a live show will testify.  O’Leary is not one to sell himself, but it is probable high time he shared more of the belief others of us have long held in his talent.

It is here on “Nineteen Years Old” where O’Leary lets the piano man work through well phrased, atmospheric solo before starting his own Chess-era harp passage.  This recording shows the confidence of the musicians as no one aboard overplays.  A female singer contributes to “Why Don’t You Say What You Feel” with an almost Diana Krall character as Cray-style guitars stab across the stealthy tempo and O’Leary chips in with harp fills….a great little interlude for the CD.  Personally I’d like to hear John venture beyond the blues at times and from recent conversations perhaps this is on the cards for the future.  The fact that he leaves plenty of room for other players on virtually all the numbers here underlines the fact that this guy likes ensemble music and the timeless spirit of the great Delmark artists lives on in these grooves…..Pete Sargent  

  Editors Footnote:-

John O'Leary has been one of the UK’s best harp players for years since the days of Savoy Brown (which he co-founded with Kim Simmonds) and then later with The John Dummer Bluesband for whom he played harp on “Cabal”, an album many US correspondents still call the closest any Brit Blusers ever got to the Chicago sound! John Shows here he’s got what it takes and we hope he gets what he deserves as he comes out of the closet to prove himself to be one of the best harp men ever out of the UK…….