Marty O’Reilly and the Old Soul Orchestra Make Triumphant Return to Rochester

It took over two years for Honest Folk to get Marty O’Reilly and the Old Soul Orchestra to Rochester the first time, but just over a year to get them back. The band didn’t remember exactly what they played, but they remembered it and had been thinking about that show ever since. The crowd likely didn’t remember what they played either, but they, too, recalled its greatness and returned in big numbers to sell out Good Luck.

Regardless of the exactness of their memory, the band tried to mix it up a bit so as not to give Rochester the same show again. Old rarities and new songs alike got sprinkled into the set, which would have sounded different either way. This is a band that plays to the moment, each one different, and so the shows follows suit.

Each member of the Old Soul Orchestra plays a simple acoustic instrument making the amount of sound the quartet outputs all the more remarkable. They squeezed their instruments for all they’re worth.

Drummer Matt Goff hit, scraped, tapped, banged and shook with sticks, brushes, mallets, hands and various percussive toys, constantly building and breaking the music through interesting changes and movements. His solos showed off a jazzman’s touch, as melodic as they were rhythmic. Bassist Ben Berry plucked, bowed and knocked his upright in both a backing and leading capacity (particularly nicely on “Alone at the Table”), stretching out with solos fit for a psychedelic rock band. Fiddler Chris Lynch frequently handled the main melodic punches, maximizing the instrument’s capabilities by employing both the traditional bowing and also picking it mandolin-style. Lynch used pedals, adding extra flavor with the most overtly non-natural sounds of the evening: spacey echoes here, dripping psychedelia there, etcetera.

O’Reilly himself stuck with the same resonator guitar throughout the night, through thick and thin. When the reverb was acting up due to the vibrations in the stage, he turned it off and made do without. When his high E string broke near the end of the first set he played “Cinnamon Tree” solo because he didn’t need it for that song. Though, midway through, he realized actually he did. But again he made it work. Whether picking, sliding, strumming or soloing, that singular guitar was all he needed.

Mixed in with originals, like “Dempsey” and “Letters,” they also tossed in a few tunes that weren’t exactly covers, but more accurately renditions of old blues tunes. The words are the same but in their hands the music becomes something quite different. You’ve never quite heard “Samson and Delilah” or “Smokestack Lightning” quite like they play them. They played a newer blues rendition that is still in “discovery mode” as they work through it during their live shows. Appropriately, it was an interpretation of “Death Letter” by Son House, who famously was rediscovered while living in Rochester.

It could certainly be said after their second visit, that Marty O’Reilly and the Old Soul Orchestra have officially been discovered by Rochester too. Perhaps on their next visit they’ll outgrow the coziness of Good Luck. Make sure you’re there when they do.