Paul Oscher | Alone with the Blues

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Blues: Chicago Style Blues: Delta Style Moods: Type: Live Recordings
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Alone with the Blues

by Paul Oscher

Legendary bluesman and multi instrumentalist Paul Oscher presents an outstanding seventeen track collection of deep blues over a wide spectrum of blues styles in this highly acclaimed release
Genre: Blues: Chicago Style
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1. Walkin'
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2:19 album only
2. That's Alright
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4:33 album only
3. My Sweet Suzanne
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4:00 album only
4. Standing at the Crossroads
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4:39 album only
5. Alone with the Blues
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5:24 album only
6. Glory, Glory
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2:46 album only
7. Blues and Trouble
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4:58 album only
8. Work that Stuff
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4:11 album only
9. Juke Joint
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4:33 album only
10. You're Still my Baby
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3:03 album only
11. Anna Lee
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3:15 album only
12. Louis Collins
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2:56 album only
13. Early One Morning
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4:24 album only
14. Old Ship of Zion
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3:35 album only
15. Blues before Sunrise
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4:47 album only
16. Christmas Blues
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4:24 album only
17. Giving Thanks
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4:35 album only
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ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
Seventeen tracks from the legendary former Muddy Waters blues band member Paul Oscher. This recording features Paul on a variety of musical instruments and vocals over a broad range of blues styles. This is traditional blues at it's best by a living master of the genre.

CONGRATULATIONS TO PAUL OSCHER
2005 HANDY AWARD NOMINEE IN FOUR CATEGORIES:

1. ACCOUSTIC BLUES ALBUM OF THE YEAR
2. ACCOUSTIC BLUES ARTIST OF THE YEAR
3. BLUES SONG OF THE YEAR
4. INSTRUMENTALIST- HARMONICA

Paul Oscher was the first white musician to become a member of the great Muddy Waters blues band (1967-71) He was Muddy's harp player and he lived in Muddy's house on Chicago's southside and shared the basement with the great Otis Spann.

"I was blessed just to be around those cats, the stuff I learned from Muddy and Spann stays with me today-that deep blues timing , phrasing and their concept of tone. When I first came into Muddy's band I knew the harp parts from his records, but I found out right quick that Muddy wasn't playing like the records, Muddy didn't play the stuff like his records and I had to learn how to wait on him to learn his time. He was a behind the beat blues singer and sometimes he would be a little behind the beat, sometimes a whole lot behind. I had to learn how to play with what was around me, I had to learn how to improvise, you couldn't just memorize a harp part and try to squeeze it in. The great thing about Little Walter was he never played the same thing twice, that's why those records with Muddy Waters and Little Walter are as alive today as they were fifty years ago because they were alive when they cut them . They were playing in the moment.
When I joined Muddy Waters band the blues was still very much alive. You could go down to Peppers lounge or Teresa's in Chicago on a Monday night and see a superstar blues variety show. Buddy Guy ,Junior wells , Little Walter, Otis Rush , Earl Hooker, James Cotton, Floyd Jones, Magic Sam,Otis Spann, Little brother Montgomery -great musicians would show up and play , I don't think at that time there was a blues musician I didn't like , they were all that good.
Today I don't listen to much music, I let the sounds of the past guide my way, I think there is still a lot you can still do with that old style blues. That's the kind of blues I fell in love with and that's the kind of blues I play-and it don't have to be a whole lot of notes just the right notes at the right place to tell the story.
Muddy said'you can't get to pretty with the blues' and that's the way I like to play them low down and lonesome.. ". I really enjoy my "alone with the blues show" it lets me stretch out, play the way I feel, I don't have to rehearse anybody and the only one I have to argue with is myself.

How did you get started on the harp?

"When I was a kid I used to pick up some spare change after school delivering groceries. My uncle gave me a marine band harmonica and I was hanging out at the grocery store trying to play Red River valley from the pamplet that came with the harp. ,Jimmy Johnson, a black guy that worked in the store, heard me and said"let me see that whistle you got son" I handed him the harp and he fooled around with it -made like he couldn't play then "whah, Whah ,Whah, he hit it! I was blown away by the sounds coming out of that harp. Turns out Jimmy used to play professionally in medicine shows down south. He had a tone that was somewhere between Big Walter and Peg Leg Sam , that was the first time I had heard the blues on a harmonica live, I was hooked.. Jimmy showed me the rudiments and in about three years I was wailin' and I started playing in black clubs in Brooklyn and Harlem. In 1965, Little Jimmy Mae (a band leader) took me to a blues show at the Apollo theatre, that's when I met MuddyWaters I played a little for him at the time and he took my phone number. About two years later Muddy came to New York and didn't have a harp player. Big Walter Horton was supposed to be on the gig, but he didn't show up when the band left Chicago. I got a call from Luther Georgia Boy Snake Johnson and he told to come down to the gig. I sat in -played two songs on the last set. When Muddy came down off the band stand he asked me, 'Can you travel? That was it, I was living out my dreams"


Muddy and the band played all kinds of venues from the rough and tumble juke joints and black theatres of the chitlin' circuit to the major concert stages of the world. In some parts of the country, Jim Crow was still law. Paul remembers

"We're traveling on this highway and coming into this town where there is a huge billboard with a picture of a KKK nightrider on horseback warning, 'Beware, you are now entering Klan country.' Everybody in the band saw it but no one spoke."

Oscher further recalls,

" when I was in Muddy's band everybody in the band carried a gun, Southside chicago and the road was sometimes a dangerous place . I saw a woman get shot in the head right across the street from Muddys house while I was talking to her, I"ve seen some great things and some terrible things. I was in the truck behind Muddy when he got in that headon collision on highway 51 on our way home from a road house gig in Covington Tennessee. Three people died that day, Muddys driver and the man and woman driving the other car

And of good times?

"There were lots of good times We used to play this black club in St. Louis called the Moonlight Lounge. I remember the first time I went down there. We pulled up at the hotel and all these hookers on the corner started shouting 'Muddy's back ' And they'd hike-up their dresses. I remember at the gig Muddy played 'I Just Want To Make Love To You' and I had this chromatic solo. I dropped to my knees still playin'the harp and this woman yells-out from the audience, 'Don't stop now baby! My drawers are wet!"
Muddy would mesmerize the audience like a preacher. He'd walk all over the club singing and people'd shout out 'I hear you brother!' '....Tell the truth!' Tell it like it is. I loved those shows. After the gig, we came back to the hotel. You entered the hotel through a barbecue joint and then in the back there was a bar and a piano. Spann would play the piano all night. We would shoot dice and hang out with the girls. You had people sitting in like Albert King. It was just a great time. I had a great time."

How did you come to play the guitar?

"I already could play the guitar enough to where I could see what somebody was doin. I learned the guitar by watching Sammy Lawhorn and Muddy, I was blowin' the Harp but I was standing right next to Muddy and I was steady watching that slide, I caught on to what he was doing plus, every now and then, he'd give me a little pointer.

Spann was someone Oscher highly admired. As Oscher explained,

"He showed me how to play piano and how to come in and out with Muddy's vocals. What I learned from Spann was his deep blues feeling The funny thing about me and the piano is that I never really tried to copy any piano licks note for note like I did when I learned the harp. For me the piano is real intuitive and free. Spann would talk to me like this, 'Brother Paul, come on over here I want to show you something,' [and] he'd show me something simple on the piano but it was enough to get me going." More so, Oscher continued, "Blues was more than music for Otis Spann, it was a way of life. He really understood people that had hard times. He was one of them and his compassion and love for his audience really comes through in all his music."

Paul Oscher's been playing those low down blues for over four decades. Besides Muddy, Paul has performed and/or recorded with a who's who in the world of blues including Victoria Spivey, Otis Spann, Johnny Young, Buddy Guy, Louisiana Red, John Lee Hooker, Big Mama Thornton , T-bone Walker, Big Joe Turner, Jimmy Rogers, Johnny Copeland the list goes on.
His latest cd on electro-fi label"Alone with the blues" is now rated in the top ten on the living blues radio charts and is his fourth solo release. He has another one "Down in the Delta" on blues fidelity ready to be released in 2005. Paul has recently recorded with Francis Clay, Johnny Dyer, Rusty Zinn and Mark Hummel on "rollin fork revisited" for mountaintop and is featured as a guest artist along with Mickey Champion and Finis Tasby on the Mannish Boys cd on Delta Groove. He has recorded with Eric Clapton, Keith Richards and Levon Helm on Hubert Sumlin's cd "About them shoes" to be released before the end of the year on the tone cool label.

In 2001, Paul Oscher moved from New York to L.A. with his wife playright and novelist Suzan -Lori Parks ( the first afro-american woman to win the Pulitzer prize in the drama category, for her play Topdog/underdog.2002)
Urged on by his wife, Paul is also trying his hand at writing down his experiences in the blues. Excerpts from his almost finished book "Alone with the Blues" have already been published in the campanion book to the PBS series Martin Scorcese presents the blues.

Paul Oscher has lived such a rich and adventurous life, yet he is humbled by those experiences. " I always try to thank the high power. The real gift of talent is not the ability to be able to play, it is the gift of the love you have for the music, that's what takes you over the hurdles.


For bio, vintage photos, road stories and soundclips and check out Paul's website WWW.PAULOSCHER.COM

For more great blues check out Paul's other album " Down in the Delta" available now only at cd baby


Reviews


to write a review

Francis

WOW!
I read the review in Southland Blues, and the review was understated! This is great!

Music City Blues Society / Don and Sheryl Crow

There aren't many guys left that can carry the torch of the deep Delta blues, an
For the uninitiated, Brooklyn-born Paul Oscher was the harp player in Muddy Waters' band from 1967-1971. During these four years, he also learned blues guitar by watching Muddy and Sam Lawhorn. While sharing a house with Otis Spann, he learned blues piano. All his musical influences come together on his latest release on the Electro-Fi label, "Alone With The Blues."
This is indeed an apt title, as fully twelve of the seventeen cuts here feature Paul as a virtual "one-man band," as he plays piano, guitar, and neck-rack harp to really convey the feeling of one man literally "alone with the blues." Paul reaches into a mixed bag of musical influences, too, mining not only blues territory, but gospel and jazz as well. Listen to the plaintive vocal on "Louis Collins," along with some fine accordion work, putting a new spin on the Mississippi John Hurt original. "My Sweet Suzanne" also has a Cajun feel, but what sounds like an accordion is actually a harmonica, Paul playing both the melody and chords simultaneously. Some of our members will see visions of Gypsy Carns as Paul helps us "lay our burdens down" with soulful renditions of "Glory, Glory," "Ship Of Zion," and "Giving Thanks." The latter is an impromptu piece with Paul on an amped-up melodica that sounds like a Hammond B-3, joined by Dave Maxwell on piano. They totally improvised this stunning closer to the CD, a variation of "Amazing Grace."
There's plenty of "Saturday nights" to go along with the "Sunday mornings," tho. Paul's piano playing is in fine form on Leroy Carr's "Blues Before Sunrise". "Juke Joint," an original Big Joe Turner shouter, is stripped down to Paul's vocal, harp, and piano, with improvised lyrics as it progresses. "Standing At The Crossroads" and "Blues And Trouble" conjure up the raw power of John Lee Hooker and Muddy with their tales of hoodoo men and mojos. Paul's slide and harp work are stellar on "Blues And Trouble," and this cut could've easily passed for some of Muddy's and Little Walter's stuff waxed down at 2120 Michigan Avenue in Chicago back in the Chess days. That's one thing we found out about this set---on the cuts where Paul is playing all the instruments as well as the vocals, he sounds like a full combo instead of just one man!
We had two favorites, tho. The first is a minor-key reading of Jimmy Rogers' "That's Alright," with Paul on harp backed by "Little T" on guitar, recorded straight-to-cassette in Paul's New York boarding house in 1999. The other is another semi-improvised number, "Anna Lee." Working with Dave Maxwell on piano, Fuzz Jones on bass, and Willie Smith on drums, Paul began singing this song between takes, and the other guys just locked in behind him on that deep-blues groove. This one is also characterized by another great slide solo as well!
There aren't many guys left that can carry the torch of the deep Delta blues, and Paul Oscher is one of them. We highly recommend "Alone With The Blues" to all blues fans and give it two hearty thumbs up!! Until next time....Sheryl and Don Crow.

Scott Barretta Living Blues Magazine Vol.35 issue174

Few artists in the blues field-black or white-could pull off a record of this ra
Given his multiple talents, Paul Oscher has a surprisingly low profile in the blues world. In 1967 Oscher became the first white member of the Muddy Waters blues band and occupied the harmonica slot there until 1971; his reminiscences of his time with the band were some of the most compelling in Robert Gordon's Muddy bio and documentary. Since then he has spent much of his, time playing in his native New York as "Brooklyn Slim" and recorded intermittently for a variety of small labels.
Naturally, the experience in Muddy's band shaped Oscher's musical outlook. Aside from drawing from Waters' great harp players, Oscher also developed into an impressive Waters-style electric slide guitarist, and plays piano in the vein of Otis Spann, with whom he shared the basement of Muddy's house.
Although this CD sometimes echoes these influences, it's mostly a low-key affair that spotlights Oscher's skills as a solo per-former. Eight of the seventeen tracks were recorded several years ago in Toronto for Electro-Fi, while the remaining stem from a variety of sources from the past decade or so. Unifying the record is Oscher's charac-teristic emphasis on the spectrum of sounds on the harmonica and his refreshing apparent lack of interest in apparent lack of interest in demonstrating how many notes he can squeeze out.
This approach is exemplified on the opener, a low-key take on the hard bop standard Walkin', where Oscher is backed by a minimal rhythm section, and the title track, a mid-tempo solo instrumental which finds Oscher exploring the breadth of his harmoni-ca collection-chromatic, diatonic, bass-with quotes from After Hours and Blue Monk.
Oscher's wide-ranging musical imagina-tion is evidenced on the swamp pop-flavored Sweet Suzanne, where his harp work emu-lates the accordion, while he picks up the squeezebox for a unique take on Mississippi John Hurt's Louis Collins.
The solo piece Standing At The Crossroads is an Oscher original in an early John Lee Hooker vein with a vocal and guitar work surprisingly close to the boogie man's, while Leroy Carr's Blues Before Sunrise and Big Joe Turner's juke joint serve as platforms for Oscher's impressive skills on the piano.
The closest Oscher comes here to the Muddy band sound is by way of Robert Nighthawk's Anna Lee, where his electric slide guitar work is backed by the rhythm section of Willie "Big Eyes" Smith and Calvin "Fuzz" Jones as well as pianist David Maxwell. The latter also accompanies Oscher on the closing track Giving Thanks, which features Oscher on another sort of "mouth organ," the melodica.
Few artists in the blues field-black or white-could pull off a record of this range and consistent quality. Alone With The Blues should help bring Oscher the attention he deserves.
-SCOTT BARRETTA

Studio City Sun / Bill Bentley

Lets color Paul Oscher phenomenal
Paul Oscher, a young, skinny white harmonica player who in the late ‘60s had worked his way into the world’s last great blues band, is playing for keeps. Muddy Waters was in peak form back then, burning down stages around the country with a group that included pianist Otis Spann, bassist Calvin Jones, Pee Wee Madison and Luther Johnson on guitars and drummer S.P. Leary supplying the crucial tombstone beat. Oscher, all of 18 years old, had taken a spot previously filled by Little Walter, Junior Wells and James Cotton in Waters’ lineup. Needless to say, the pressure was on. This was a band that could slice up the competition with their eyes closed, laughing while they laid waste to all comers. The Muddy Waters crew played Chicago blues, the kind that would curl your toes and tear up your heart, and that’s just on the opening number. By the end of the evening, their music defined whole worlds of hurt, finally leading to happiness of the kind usually delivered by religions and other righteous pursuits. To have worn those colors marks you for life.
From all accounts, the next twenty-five years weren’t always great for the harp player. The usual struggles with survival and self-defeating skirmishes of the soul kept the musician out of the limelight and in hot water. But in 1996 a solo album surfaced, and by then damn if the man wasn’t a full-grown bluesman of his own. His hard-knock years had given him a presence heard from very few modern musicians. Oscher had also taught himself guitar and piano, coupled with a vocal style straight off the street, coming from somewhere dark and deep way beyond the usual mannerisms of his blue-eyed soul brothers. Here’s what Paul Oscher didn’t bother with: phaser filters, tennis shoes, non-fat vanilla lattes, Pro Tools, veggie wraps, endless takes, hot shot producers, high dollar photo sessions, movie openings, image consultants, co-writes, videos for VH1, remixes by Moby or anything else which would take away from the overwhelming essence of what he does, which is play blues with a power to move mountains and give faith there is magic to be found in the spirit of one man. Consider Alone with the Blues as the pure evidence of that pursuit.
Years ago John Mayall recorded an album called The Blues Alone, pretty much defining what he was with very little outside help. Paul Oscher has accomplished an even greater feat on his fourth album. Because of all the nights he spent so close to the source with Waters, Spann and the other Chicago originators, he bears down on the songs in a way that gets as near to the blood as anyone out there now, conveying their daring truths with a shivering strength. There are timeless takes on classic songs by Leroy Carr, Mississippi John Hurt and Big Joe Turner right next to originals that even the blues police won’t be able to tag as recent. The lyrics on Oscher’s own “Standing at the Crossroads” and “Blues and Trouble” come from a long lifetime of living, something this musician can stand tall and declare himself to be a survivor of. His ability to extend the range of various harmonicas is nothing short of headshaking. And when necessary, Oscher will whip out a melodica or accordion just to kick the dazzle index up a few inches. Then, right when you feel like you’ve finally figured out his musical world, a song like “My Sweet Suzanne” will fall out of the sky with a swampy sound so real and rocking that a listener can only swear the man must have one leg left standing in Louisiana.
The key to everything is Oscher has realized exactly who he is, and knows how to turn that proud self into sound. At the very end of the disc, there’s a short interview with Muddy Waters himself. Asked about his one-time harp player being white, the blues king says, “I don’t care what color, as long as he’s got that soul that I feel.” Let’s color Paul Oscher phenomenal, and leave it at that.

Dennis Parker

Wow!
I had forgotten how much I loved the Blues until I heard Paul wail. He reminded me that the Harp was often the lead instrument in a Blues band. I especially liked Jimmy Rodgers "Thats Alright". The Harmonica work blew me away!
Dennis Parkr

Neil

Great blowing!
Never heard of Paul before. Bought after reading a review and been on in the car every day since.

Big City Blues Magazine / Gary von Tersch

high heat brush-back blues at its best
It's great to see 53 year old Chicago blues veteran and harmonica whiz Paul Oscher back on the scene and out with a new solo project. He's been impressing fans and critics alike for a long while with his multi-instrumentalist abilities, songwriting talent and sinewy yet sincere vocals. After getting his start in the Muddy Waters band from 1967 through 1971-following legends like Little Walter, James Cotton and Junior Wells- Oscher became a first call session and road musician with blues performers from John lee and Earl hooker to T-bone Walker and Eric Clapton. After all,he certainly had the chops. Oscher began picking up slide guitar from nights on the bandstand with Waters and Sammy Lawhorn and absorbed a rolling, left hand heavy, piano approach from the vigorous Otis Spann.
The material collected here comes from a variety of sources and dates from 1993, where he plays haunting button accordion on Mississippi John Hurt's saga of gunshot victim Louis Collins, through 2001 and is mostly solo. Standouts from the five combo cuts include an expressive recasting of Robert Nighthawk's plaintive ode to mean "Anna Lee", the south side reverberant instrumental lead-off "Walkin'" along with a jaunty, swamp-pop infused "My Sweet Suzanne" and feature buddies David Maxwell on piano, drummer Willie "Big Eyes" Smith and a few others.
Well tempered Oscher originals are abound. From the moody, foot stompin' title tune that has him on assorted chromatic and diatonic harmonicas, bass harmonica and and melodica," a Delta deep and sweaty "Standing at the Crossroads" to the Muddy conjuration "Blues and Trouble" that features superb slide. Oscher also finds time to scaldingly revive obscure R&B oldies like Joe Turner's barrelhouse piano- driven Juke Joint and Chuck Willis' melodic confessional "You're still my baby." A revival of "Old ship of zion" the traditional gospel number, and an icy, lonely "Christmas blues" will make Oscher believers out of you.
This is high heat brush-back blues at its best from one of the many unsung champions currently performing. Catch up with him at pauloscher.com.

Big City Blues Magazine Aug/Sept 2004

szymon from poland


revelations!!!i regret that i weak at english.p.s.i love raw deep blues,this feeling and sound. especially harmonica's toned.gratulations paul!!!thank you!!!

sugar brown

low-down, poignant, haunting, and heavy hitting
This is an amazing recording for the breadth and intensity of the songs, not to mention the vast styles combined with a sparse yet really diverse instrumentation. I didn't know Paul could play such moving gospel songs, either-- and especially on the melodica, which sounded like a smoking B3! His chromatic harp playing is also totally brilliant-- haunting and mysterious but with the kind of power that Little Walter had on songs like "She Moves Me". He just takes his time on everything, and it makes the entire cd extremely enjoyable. Most of all, I like Paul's sincerity in his songs, they just cut through with so much feeling. I kept thinking: this must be the kind of blues Paul used to play alone in that apartment in Brooklyn....Anyway, this is a great cd, and it puts to shame all those over produced tourist-trap blues recordings that are afraid to really stick their necks out. In short, Paul's a serious muh-fuh. Buy this and support the real blues and this great record label!

Will Decker Order No. 665609


As a beginner after 68 years of neglect I appeciate the opportunity to take advantage of artist Like Paul Oscher and his expertise and that of his exposure with former harmonica artists. I'm learning. At your so friendly request for comment, I was a bit disappointed not to receive the names of the keys he used for Along With The Blues but I understand and am working them out. Thanks
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