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?
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
New Music Is A Reason To Walk Through The Door
By Sheryl Hunter
“The Whole year’s been gettin’ you down/cheering up is a chore/It’s my job as an entertainer/ to give people a reasonto come through the door”, sings veteranbluesman Wildcat O’Halloran, of Sunderland, on the bouncy title track off his new album “You Can’t Fall Off The Floor”
Unfortunately, the Wildcat can’t get us through any doors at the moment, but he does entertain us with this humorous track--one that gives a nod to the pandemic and reassures us that while killer hornets, schools being closed, and feuding politicians may lead us to drink, at least we can’t fall off the floor.
This song, like many of the others, leaves a smile on one’s face.
“You Can’t Fall Off The Floor”, which was recorded during the pandemic, is the Wildcat O’halloran Band’s 16 release and the follow up to last year’s “Deck of Cards” That album had a turbulent beginningin that Wildcat’s drummer had a near-fatal heart attack during the rehearsal for the project, and then it had the unfortunate release date of March 15,2020, just about the exact time that everything shut down.
This meant no live shows except for a few socially distanced local shows that they were able to play over the summer. Despite its rocky start, Deck of Cards has done well, receiving positive reviews and airplay on over 250 stations around the world.
O’Halloran has a longtime presence on the local blues scene, and has opened shows for the likes of Greg Allman and John Lee Hooker and even once served as Bo Diddley’s backing band. He’s been extremely prolific in recent years, cranking out albums at a regular pace, with each release bolstering his exposure on the national scene.
“You Can’t Fall Off The Floor” is a mix of covers and originals and includes plenty of O’Halloran’s trademark humor and scorching guitar work and is sure to further boost his profile and appeal to both new and old fans.
O’Halloran is backed by Mark Chouinard on drums, David Kendarian on bass, and Emily Duff on Saxophone. Duff, who is a jazz-educated musician, has a prominent role on the disc with O’Halloran providing her plenty of space to stretch out and show off her talent. This is evident right from the start of the disc, the disc starts with an almost 7 minute cover of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Worried About You”, which particularly starts with an incredible solo by Duff. The song also features some call and response between Duff and O’Halloran and overall showcases the incredible interplay between the two (they even slip in a riff from the Beatles “Day Tripper”), giving the listener a good indicator of what lies ahead on this album.
They follow with their take on Ray Charles” “Mary Ann”, with Chouinard and Kendarian providing the perfect launchpad for O’Halloran and Duff to soar.
If you have attended one of the Wildcat O”Halloran Band’s many local shows, you know that O’Halloran is a natural-born storyteller and he even displays the skill on this disc as he introduces the song “Pirate Queen”, which is about Duff. As O’Halloran explains, Duff works part-time as a musician on cruise ships.
She was on a cruise sailing in Asia when Covid-19 broke out and no country wanted the ship to dock. As a result, she was at sea for 62 days before cruising through the Suez Canal (hence the pirate reference) landing in Gibraltar, and eventually flying home out of Britain.
After an experience like that, Duff, who is from Becket, deserves a song written about her.
“Facebook U” is a hilarious song about what passes for truth on Facebook, with O’Halloran singing “If I wanted fake news, I’d buy a fake newspaper” is catchy and danceable.
While things slow down with a smoldering cover of “Angel of Mercy and “Crossin’ Off”, a song that originally appeared on 2014’s “Party Up In Heaven” . The latter isn’t the kind of upbeat, danceable material we’ve come to expect from the Wildcat O’Halloran Band. It’s a sad and beautiful song, with Duff’s sax work taking it to another level and helps to make it one of the most memorable songs O’Halloran has ever written.
The album wraps up on a high note with songs like “Too Big to Cry” and the jazzy funk of “Take Me for a Little While” Wildcat O’Halloran is a serious musician who never takes himself too seriously.
On “You Can’t Fall Off The Floor”, O’Halloran proves to be a true bluesman, yet one who always wants his audience to have a good time….which is something we could all use right now.
From Aug. 2020 Living Blues Magazine:
Pick any card out of The Wildcat O’Halloran Band’s fresh deck, and you’re bound to find an ace….and maybe even a joker! The Boston-based band delivers good time music that rollicks and rocks, and urges fans of its live shows out of their chairs and onto the dance floor. Joining guitarist O’Halloran in the band are Kathy “Doc” Peterson on bass, Gil May on drums, and Emily Duff on tenor sax. Duff’s swinging sax gives many of these tunes their distinctive sound,while O’Halloran’s crisp leads drive them along the blues rock trail.
The band’s version of Ray Charles’ I Wonder Who begins with O’Halloran’s aching lead runs and arpeggios before opening expansively into the spaciousness provided by the straight-ahead blues of the song. Duff’s sensual sax mimics the ache of desire and loss, plumbing the depths of emotion, before moving into a musical back and forth with O’Halloran’s guitar on the bridge. The band’s version of Clarence Carter’s Tell Papa rockets off the album, even as it captures Carter’s signature style, while the title track skitters along, showcasing O’Halloran’s nod-and-a-wink lyrics, and the band’s feel-good musical style. The band’s version of Got Love if You Want It swings along in rocking fashion, propelled along by the call and response of Duff’s sax and O’Halloran’s leads. Blues Energy romps along with a raucous rockabilly-inflected path, while the album closes quietly with a country blues version of Ronnie Dunn’s Cost Of Living.
Deck of Cards is pure fun from the first note to the last. Wildcat O’Halloran and his merry band lead us down a variety of musical paths, encouraging us to find pleasure at every stop. ---Henry L. Carrigan Jr.
Blues Music Mag July 2020
The bard of the Berkshires is back. (Ok, near the Berkshires, in Central Massachusetts) Wildcat O’Halloran, of wisecracking, songwriting, and super guitar fame, has releases a new ten-track collection of energetic, and often thought-provoking songs.
Six are O’Halloran originals, beginning with the already popular “crunch Time”. The song, a fixture of the band’s live shows, is a toned-down version on the disc, although still a lot of fun. Sax player Emily Duff, a star of the band, brings a new edge to the song, and does a bang-up job throughout the record. As usual, O’Halloran himself excels on guitar on each song, many showing us his Tampa Red vibe. Notably on this recording are a wide variety of rhythms mixed into lyrics that alternate between amusing, ironic, and downright serious.
“But” is a hilarious song, starting off with drums and spoken lyrics explaining that “love” is actually the second most powerful word in the English language. The first is-you guessed it-BUT. As in “ I love you,but not like that” and “The bill was filed, but it’s tied up in Congress”. The title track is a rocker that showcases O’Halloran’s way with words: “ You’ve got more stories than an anthology/ You got lyin’ right in your biology. You’ve got more boys on your team than a baseball squad/You got more faces than a deck of cards.” He gets the point across, all the while with references to a card game. “If Ifs Were 5Ths” is a fun shuffle, with daughter Sarah O’Halloran singing backup. It’s a lament or ode to something==if he had taken up piano instead of guitar, for example; and thinking “ What if?” with his life, along with snippets about butts and drinking. The song has one of the best guitar solos on the record.
Blues traditionalists will enjoy Slim Harpo’s “Got Love if You Want It”, without the harp, but with great interplay and big solos by Wildcat and Duff. Ray Charles’ “I Wonder Who” is a slow blues with another, longer outstanding guitar solo. For the funk aficionados, there’s “Tell Papa”, written by Clarence Carter, a lively danceable number, again with terrific sax holding it together. The band is known as one of New England’s best party ensembles. Besides Wildcat on guitar and vocals, Sarah O’Halloran on backup vocals, and Duff on tenor sax, the band consists of Kathy Peterson on bass, and Gil May on drums. Deck of Cards is one of Wildcat’s best albums, so give it a good listen and get a few chuckles on the way----Karen Nugent
This review just in fro La Hora del Blues in Spain: For those who are not familiar with them, only mention The Wildcat O'Halloran Band come from New England and, along their long career, they have shared stage with such great artists like Greg Allman, The Stray Cats, John Lee Hooker, Bo Diddley or Albert Collins. With this new release, the band aims to please and satisfy, not only the most traditional Chicago blues lovers but also the new generations of blues addicts who look for a more energetic music, new feelings and some surprises in the music they listen to. Led by singer, songwriter and guitarist Wildcat O'Halloran, the rest of the band members share the work as follows, Emily "Ocean Princess" Duff is on tenor sax, Kathy "Doc" Peterson can be found beside her bass, Sarah Halloran is on vocals in some tracks, Gil May works on drums and Mark Chouinard has been invited to play drums in some songs. The four musicians take the reins of music with conviction and eagerness, to develop ten songs with a natural simplicity, commitment and good doses of enthusiasm.
THE WILDCAT O’ HALLORAN BAND
DECK OF CARDS
Singer/ guitarist/ bandleader Wildcat O’Halloran is based in New England and makes extremely listenable records. The opening track, Crunch Time is a meaty piece of early 60s styled Chicago rhythm ‘n’ blues (think maybe vintage Buddy Guy). If you want to hear his straight blues chops, lend an ear to his version of the slow blues I Wonder Who, with its classic and classy guitar introduction, excellent vocals, and superb instrumental breaks from Emily Duff on tenor sax and the Wildcat himself. In fact, it is worth noting here that Emily makes nearly as much of an instrumental contribution to this album as the leader. She impresses throughout, but then so do all concerned. Wildcat has a strong sense of humour, which comes through fairly frequently - he is an excellent song-writer. As the blues is often about communication, note that he has some very salient points on the latter. Try the second number But, about the second most powerful word in the English language, after “Love”, or They Told Me, about phrases we all use, and then there is also If Ifs Were Fifths about possibilities, whilst the title track is a wonderful litany of clever put-downs (“if your lips are moving, chances are you’re lying”, is just one example). Blues Energy describes his approach and the problem these days of playing to younger audiences (and looking like Tom Cruise), whilst the closing, acoustic-based Cost Of Living is certainly a blue-collar blues. All in all, this is an excellent, enjoyable contemporary blues set, firmly rooted in the tradition but with a strong, vital spark of individuality.
Norman Darwen Blues Matters Magazine (UK)
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