The Wildcat O’Halloran Band prove interesting and entertaining on Here Lies A Fool --from Bill Copeland Music News
By Bill Copeland on February 1, 2023
Wildcat O’Halloran Band’s latest album Here Lies A Fool is an interesting and entertaining exercise. Its cover art features a drawing of a gravestone reading Here Lies A Fool with an electric six string guitar jammed into the ground in front of that marker.
The Wildcat band show their affinity for blues, jumping right into this album with B.B. King’s “Blind Love.” O’Halloran’s low tenor drawl and greasy guitar licks flavor it well. Emily’s Duff’s saxophone turn on the main melodic theme makes it more seductive. Jerry Jeff’s bass guitar work locks into drummer Chet Pasek’s sly backbeat, giving this a hip, motivational groove. All of these elements come together to show this band still has the ability to remain tight and colorful.
”40 Days,” by Bernard Ross, gets the full Wildcat O’Halloran Band treatment here. Duff’s slow, sensual sax lines color this one sexy. O’Halloran’s electric guitar chord progression is like the pole Duff’s saxophone melody wraps itself around, steady and compelling. When he plays his melodic phrase, O’Halloran greasy smooth run pours gravy over the potatoes, a rich flavoring that finds a good home above the deep, rich rocking chair groove.
Duff is instrumental to this band’s rendition of the James Brown popularized “Living In America.” She keeps the rich, soul stirring horn sound flowing, filling this song out nicely. O’Halloran and his backing vocalist keep the chorus lifted, lofty, plenty of voice to fill the open space with that familiar hook. Siiru and Pasek maintain a danceable groove while the upper registers have fun with the arrangement.
O’Halloran’s penned title track “Here Lies A Fool” makes for a whimsical take on the world wary songwriter. This songwriter sums up life’s misfortune with wit. It helps that his chords progressions keep it funky before his lead guitar break gives off some rock and roll sparks. The listener has got to love it when Duff chimes with her intervals of sax puffs, light but full, a playful take on the main theme.
“Coltrane At The Bar,” another O’Halloran original, combines a hip electric guitar jive and a cool, breezy sax melody. The two instruments dovetail each other with fine results. Duff makes one picture sexy women dancing inside a speakeasy. O’Halloran then chimes in with his spiky riffs, furthering the hip shaking allure. When the two upper registers play in union an even greater sense of passion ensues.
O’Halloran’s plaintive, cynical “Buy A Dog” is accompanied by a fine lilting groove that moves it an appropriately jaunty pace. It lays the perfect foundation for O’Halloran to unfurl his no use for a friend wariness. He also unleashes a grinding assertion on his guitar that puts more muscle into his message.
This band takes the traditional “Outskirts” and makes it its own. O’Halloran picks some soulful tender notes, accompanying his opening vocal sprawl. If the O’Halloran guitar work isn’t enough, Ms. Duff emits puffs of fetching sax lines, just enough horn play to make her a seriously sublime presence here. Her notes eventually become flintier, making a fine dance partner to the more accented O’Halloran guitar picking. The rhythm section, classy as hell, keep this all anchored with a sly, in the pocket groove.
O’Halloran and company, with their undying commitment to rearranging popular music into their albums, tackle Luther Vandross’s “Jump To It.” This one makes good with O’Halloran’s cool sense of where to put emphasis on the lyrics, just when the words spin with the groove. His call and response with his backing singers makes the chorus catchy, lively, fun, and even soulful. O’Halloran also grinds out some sparks on his guitar, using his ax to put a fine edge on things. Siiru and Pasek put another of their motivational grooves beneath the upper registers, enough backbeat and knobby low end to keep the dancers dancing.
The band has even more fun with their cover of “See See Rider,” turning the old Elvis Presley Las Vegas staple into a cool, jumpy rocker. The rhythm section keep the groove pumping with plenty of fills and a thick bass run. Hopping and bopping saxophone livens things up nicely and O’Halloran plays sweet intervals that give more lift.
Close out track “Spoonful” returns O’Halloran to his great love of blues. Trading lead vocals with Merrill Shepard provides a sexier result, his ruggedly handsome voice, her sultry edge having chemistry. The tension builds slowly but surely as O’Halloran showcases his acoustic blues guitar skills, greasy slide switching off with gritter notes. Nice touch.
The Wildcat O’Halloran Band continue to be successful making good albums by combining their blues inflected originals with bluesy interpretations of popular songs. They also lock into solid grooves while playing with chemistry but leaving each other room for cool instrumental flourishes when time and space allows. Eva Cappelli and Lici Baird sing backing vocals with Shepard to good result, creating a more three dimensional sound.
This, from the Tidewater Blues Festival:
You know man it's hard to believe but you are even better in concert than I ever expected you to be such a good show man I'm still just blown away! You guys kicked ass, and your wireless guitar roaming around the building climbing up the stairs and standing on the table definitely raise the bar for next year's Tidewater Blues Festival thanks again buddy!
Radio Guitar One--New Album Review: Wildcat O'Halloran Band
Artist: Wildcat O'Halloran Band
Album: Here Lies A Fool
Wildcat is a wonderful throwback to blues that seems to be influenced by artists that were recorded before the rise of Stevie Ray Vaughan. We all know the impact that SRV had on blues music and guitar playing in particular. To be clear, I love SRV music, but I also equally appreciate a more traditional approach that is closer to a Chicago influence. This space is where I have always heard Wildcat's music. A little less brute force and a little more grease. The raw tone and approach in both Cat's playing and production remind me a bit of the legendary Jelly Roll Kings.
One of the things I always enjoy with the Wildcat recordings is the lyrics. So few artists in the blues genre fancy themselves as lyricists these days. His lyrics have a tongue and cheek quality that is a cross between Chuck Berry and Willie Dixon. There is something fun about his verses, but still quite clever.
The ten song set starts with a song called Blind Love that has an Allman Brothers vibe. It is clear right from the jump that the band is aware of the power of a relaxed groove. There is a looseness to this track that just sits right where it is comfortable, never flirting with rock. They seem to be content just simmering, instead of boiling, which I find quite refreshing.
The title track Here Lies A Fool is a great example of the lyrics that make Cat's recordings different from so many others. He says "I've got a roomful of runner up medallions and I ain't gonna stop cooking spaghetti, just because they tell me that I ain't Italian". It is all rolled into a rumba groove that seamlessly moves in and out of a shuffle. He has a classic approach to the blues, but something that is all his own at the same time. His ability to tell a colorful story is no doubt a big piece in the puzzle.
Outskirts is another track that I really enjoyed. It is a slow burn classic blues that has patience to spare. This song is another one that is so loose that it feels like it is going to fall apart at any second but just doesn't. In some ways they're like a jam band that is casually strolling through the blues and seeing where it takes them. Patiently waiting to see what is around the next 12 bar bend in the path.
This record is a cool mix of old blues covers and Wildcat originals. The playing and writing are raw, tasteful and heartfelt. It has a refreshing simplicity and maturity throughout its entirety. If you like your blues intake on the more traditional side with a songwriters lyrical sense you will likely enjoy this set. I know I did!
THE WILDCAT O'HALLORAN BAND Living Blues review March/April 2022
Here Lies a Fool
No Label - No #
Wildcat O'Halloran has cut a singular swath through the New England blues scene for decades with his witty songwriting, distinctive vocals, and muscular, fuzzed-out guitar. On his 17th album, Here Lies a Fool, the Wildcat shows no signs of slowing down, ripping with gusto through a ten-track set that includes trad favorites, quirky originals, and a few out of-left-field covers.
The strut and bite of O'Halloran's guitar is on rich display on an emphatic rendering of Muddy Waters' 40 Days, anchored by the insistent bassline of Jerry Jeff Siiru. On the deathless See See Rider, Wildcat effortlessly peels off fleet-footed lines that skip with buoyant glee over drummer Chet Pasek's snappy beat and saxophonist Emily Duff's peek-a-boo single-note accents. O'Halloran is joined by honey-toned vocalist Merrill Shepard for a classy acoustic take on Howlin' Wolf's Spoonful, the guitarist slashing away at his resonator as he bends blue notes like a circus strongman.
There's also a touch of the clown in O'Halloran, genuine laughter provoked by his self-deprecating lyrics on the talk-sung title track: "He gave music the best years of his life, and a few of the crappy ones." A humorous touch likewise graces the proto-rock diss track Buy a Dog, the title Wildcat's advice to a now-friendless unfaithful woman. In a moodier vein, he infuses the traditional Outskirts with downtrodden sincerity, and, with a firm rhythmic assist from Siiru, pens a sleek showcase for Duff's husky, inviting sound on the disc's sole instrumental, Coltrane at the Bar.
Shepard is joined by Lici Baird and Eva Cappelli, as the Straight to the Top Singers. for a surprisingly hard-edged take on Aretha Franklin's Jump to It, featuring O'Halloran's rawest playing of the recording. This vocal trio also enlivens the most unexpected cut, a low down rendition of the latter-day James Brown favorite Livin' in America, where O'Halloran's guitar wriggles and dips, conjuring the Godfather of Soul himself.
HERE LIES A FOOL
WILDCAT O'HALLORAN BAND
There is doubtless a lack of big-budget polish to this self-released effort, resulting in an occasional unevenness in audio quality; this is perhaps most to the detriment of Pasek, whose consistently solid beat-keeping sometimes struggles to be heard. But this rough-and tumble aesthetic also gives Here Lies a Fool the flavor of a strong night down at your local blues club, and with so many still skipping out on live music for the time being, that vibe is the next best thing to being there.
-Matt R. Lohr
This from La Hora Del Blues in Spain, 3/03/2022:
Over thirty years, the guitarist and singer Wildcat O’Halloran has passed through all the clubs in Western Massachusetts.
He recently published his most recent work “Here Lies A Fool”, which is a continuation of his previous albums that received wide airplay in the area. The album will likely surprise many due to the way that Wildcat and his band interpret the ten song set-list included on the album; as they give the songs a sense of simplicity that mixes with a contemporary tone that, at times, verges on psychedelic. All this means that the album requires more than one listen in order to uncover the strange and original ways that the band approaches well-known tracks like “40 Days”, “See See Rider”, or “Spoonful” in such unique ways that will surprise more than one listener.
In addition to Wildcat O’Halloran on guitar and vocals, we find Emily Duff on sax, Jerry Jeff Siiru on bass, and Chet Pasek on drums, along with occasional collaborators.
A perplexing, incredibly unique, and tremendously personal album from an artist that is truly surprising in the way he understands and interprets the blues.
Living Blues Review of “You Can’t Fall Off the Floor”
By Jon Kleinman
For over 50 years, Wildcat O’Halloran has been enlivening the New England Blues scene with his wily wit and finely honed guitar chops. You Can’t Fall Off The Floor is a wonderful showcase for both his unique personality, and his band’s top-notch musicianship. With live music still a rarity, O’Halloran and his band went out to record an album that captured the pacing and energy level of a live performance. O’Halloran’s acerbic humor is in fine form on Facebook U. Observations on life in a world saturated with conspiracy theories are punctuated with the refrain “ If this is Facebook University, I’m dropping out”. The gut-wrenching, minor key workout Crossin’ Off features some of O’Halloran’s most brutally honest songwriting. Mournful guitar licks and understated vocals add punch to this tale of lost love. O’Halloran pays tribute to his longtime saxophone player Emily Duff in Pirate Queen. In a spoken introduction, O’Halloran describes Duff’sexperience of working on a cruise ship in Asia as the pandemic began. The tune sports a gritty, West Side arrangementthat’s anchored by bassist David Kendarian and drummer Mark Chouinard. O’Halloran’s guitar work channels the spirit of Buddy Guy, while Duff gets plenty of room to stretch out on sax.
In addition to the original material, You Can’t Fall Off The Floor contains several well-chosen cover tunes. On Ray Charles’ Mary Ann, O’Halloran pays tribute to onetime Butterfield Blues Band and Electric Flag guitarist Mike Bloomfield. As he digs into the solo, O’Halloran’s lyrical fretwork and singing vibrato reveal a deep appreciation for the late Bloomfield’s work. A spirited reading of Devil’s Hand celebrates Johnny Copeland’s induction into the Blues Hall of Fame. No musician will ever replicate Copeland’s signature growl and indomitable presence, but O’Halloran’s deft guitar work and vocals are a fine tribute to the Texas Twister.
The title track demonstrates that even the apocalyptic events of the past year have not diminished O’Halloran’s inimitable sense of humor. “ Money’s tight, and the schools are closed---there’s murder hornets and more” Wildcat O’Halloran is a first-class musician who can also wring laughter out of challenging times. What more could a blues fan ask for?
This just in from Cromwell, Ct people: Not to brag, but this is a typical private event review!
Wildcat was an amazing band for my dad’s surprise party! They were very professional, lively and fun! The music was fantastic and really got the party started. Could not recommend them more. 10/10!!
Jessica gave you the following star ratings based on your service at their event (1=lowest, 5=highest):
Overall Talent: 5
Overall satisfaction: 5
From La Hora del Blues (Spain) The Wildcat O'Halloran Band "You Can't Fall Off The Floor." Self Production 2021 .
From New England, The Wildcat O'Halloran Band presents their unique and genuine way of playing the blues. In these difficult times of the pandemic in which there are practically no live concerts, the band has wanted to recreate with hair and signs the spirit of their performances with a repertoire in which their own compositions alternate with versions of some classic songs from the history of the blues such as "Angel of Mercy" by Herner Banks & Raymond Jackson, "Devil's Hand" by Johnny Copeland, "Mary Ann" by Ray Charles and "Worried About You" by Chester Burnett, which they interpret in a personal way and with the dedication of those who truly feel imbued by the spirit of this music, as well as offering lyrics full of humor. Wildcat O'Halloran leads the band and is in charge of playing the guitar and singing, Emily Duff blows the sax, Dave Kenderian plays the bass and finally Mark Chouinard is on drums. As they say with a great sense of humor "if with the coronavirus we are living the end of time, this may be our best and last album." So folks, it seems like you have no choice but to enjoy this album over and over again until the end of your days. VERY GOOD.
Blues Matters (UK) review of “You Can’t Fall Off The Floor” 3/26/2021
Definitely what it says on the tin: a unique spin on the blues. With a rhythm section of Mark Chouinard and Dave Kendsrian (and sometimes Kathy Peterson), and the unerring ears and jazz skills of saxplayer extraordinaire Emily Duff (rescued from a cruise ship adrift in the Atlantic as Covid -19 hit) that lends a depth and sophistication to the straight=talking Wildcat and his lyrics. It is a mix of his 50 years of immersion in blues culture and the story for our times. With a nod to Howlin’ Wolf….which turns into a 7 minute wild ride, and a nod to Johnny Copeland’s inclusion in the Blues Hall of Fame, as well as dropping off Facebook to concentrate on making this album….in case it really was the end of our time. The sax runs through this album, giving it, to me, a jazz feel...as well as, at times, a honky-tonk rock-and-roll feel, while the expertise of the musicians lends a depth and beat to the entire album-every song. There is a feel of the US in this album, and when O’Halloran tells the story of Emily stuck on a cruise ship, you can hear the US in his voice. Something in track 12 (Can’t Fall Off the Floor) made me think of a musical comedy parody….this album is full of mischief and storytelling personal to Cat and his band. Sounds like they had a lot of fun and decided, if this was indeed the end of the world as we know it, they wanted to leave a little of their loves, their stories, and their great love of music and performing.----Jean Knappit
Blues Music Mag July 2020
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