Giving roots to the rhythm

ERICA HIGHHOUSE
Posted 6/19/19

HONESDALE, PA — In the height of the afternoon sun, Chris O’Leary and his band took the stage this past weekend at the 14th annual Roots and Rhythm Festival in Honesdale’s Central …

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Giving roots to the rhythm

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HONESDALE, PA — In the height of the afternoon sun, Chris O’Leary and his band took the stage this past weekend at the 14th annual Roots and Rhythm Festival in Honesdale’s Central Park.

Bodies were swaying and feet were tapping, as audience members all got lost in their own groove.

Frontman of the Hudson Valley-based band, O’Leary is no stranger to watching the crowds before him lose themselves as he plays with his band. But his interest in musicianship didn’t start from watching performances on stage as it does with many artists; it began in his own living room.

O’Leary grew up in a musical household. “My first inspiration was my dad. I listened to anything from opera to Bruce Springsteen to Bob Seger as a kid, and, well, we hit everything in between.”

Those living-room jam sessions never left O’Leary’s mind. He joined the Marines as a young adult and when he got out in 1993, he became a cop. “I felt a hole in that life,” he said, and it made him want to turn back to being creative, being an artist—something that Roots and Rhythm Music and Arts Festival has honored since it began. 

“Music, it’s who I am,” he said, backstage on Saturday. “I’m not myself unless I’m doing this.”

O’Leary spent seven years playing with acclaimed drummer and vocalist from The Band, Mark Lavon “Levon” Helm. “I learned so much from him, he’s my biggest inspiration to this day. He plays a part in the stuff I create now,” O’Leary said.

O’Leary and band members: Tom Terry (bass), Chris DiFrancesco (baritone sax), Andy Stahl (tenor sax) and Andrei Koribanics (drums) have worked together to create something distinctive that represents them all. They say their vibe meets at the intersection of soul, jazz, blues, country, and rock and roll. It’s a classic sound infused with a little bit of their personalized flare. O’Leary summed up their collective style in one word: “roots.” In other words, a style that brings together the roots of multiple musicians into a singular harmonious orchestra of sounds.

So what made O’Leary bring his band to Roots and Rhythm? It’s got an “eclectic” atmosphere. “It’s different from your average venue,” he went on to say. It sets itself apart.

O’Leary talked about how the best clubs and festivals bring with them a spectrum of life. “People young, old, black, white—a range. That’s what you get at Roots and Rhythm. Everyone’s just hanging out and enjoying the music, that’s all.”

The Chris O’Leary Band and many others contributed to the celebration of artistic expression this weekend at Roots and Rhythm. Find photos at www.riverreporter.com and on our Facebook page. For more of O’Leary and his band, check out their latest album, “7 Minutes Late.”

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