Saturday, August 15, 2009

Paul Oscher's Strong Blues Roots

Paul Oscher (seen at this past 2009 Pocono Blues Festival) returned to the Pocono Blues Festival as part of the Friday Night Festival opener. The following is a review of his Electro-Fi CD,Alone With the Blues, that appeared in the July-August 2004 Jazz & Blues Report (www.jazz-blues.com). The review (written a couple years of his Pocono Blues Fest appearance) captures a bit of the avriety that Oscher brings to a live performance as he recalls some stories from his time in Muddy's Band as well as recollections of some folks he admires. His story about playing 3 card Monty with Junior Wells is priceless. He is someone that you really should endeavor to try to catch live. And his CDs are outstanding. This CD should still be readily available.

This writer remembers catching Paul Oscher’s impressive performance at the Pocono Blues Festival in 2002. Oscher, was the harmonica player in the Muddy Waters Band between 1967 and 1971 and the first white to be a regular member of the blues legends band. He lived in Muddy’s house and shared the basement with the great Otis Spann, from whom he learned blues piano just like Muddy was his model for his slide guitar playing. Not nearly as known as other Muddy Waters’ alumni, it is a reflection of the fact that fame is often elusive. With the release of his new Electro-Fi album, Alone With the Blues, one can hope that Oscher’s time has finally arrived. This is a varied album with a number of solo performances mixed in with some small group sides. The mood ranges from his chromatic explorations on Richard Carpenter’s Walkin’ (yes the tune known from Miles Davis’ recording), a telling reworking of Jimmy Rogers’ That’s Alright, the zydeco groove of My Sweet Suzanne with his chromatic harp replacing the accordion, his recasting of the Standing at the Crossroads theme into how John Lee Hooker might have reworked the song back in 1950, Blues and Trouble, a slow Muddy Waters-styled blues with some strong slide playing, Chuck Willis’ You’re Still My Baby (on which he plays guitar and rather full-bodied rack harp), and the title track, an instrumental tour de force based on the instrumental After Hours, on which Oscher plays assorted harmonicas and the melodica. David Maxwell and ex-Muddy sidemen, Calvin Jones and Willie Smith, back his rendition of Robert Nighthawk’s Anna Lee, while he plays the accordion on Mississippi John Hurt’s Louis Collins. The versatility does not obscure the fact that Paul Oscher’s playing is of the highest level and his vocals ring true on this superb disc that is obviously highly recommended.

1 comment:

Little Mike said...

Paul has always been my hero!! Little Mike