At one time, Paul Oscher was probably best known for breaking the race barrier to become the first white member of Muddy Waters's regular band. Today, although he keeps a relatively low profile - he is acknowledged by cognoscenti, and by anyone within earshot, as one of the deepest and most talented active blues artists today. His latest album, “Bet On The Blues”, includes 15 "rough" versions of songs recorded live and in the studio that speak to Oscher's thorough mastery of the blues and spiritual idioms. Spirituals from the catalogs of Mississippi John Hurt, Lightnin' Hopkins, and the Carter Family enrich a set of blues that draws on Freddie King ("Slideaway") and J.B. Lenoir (the haunting "What Have I Done"). Not surprisingly given Oscher's personal
history, the playlist is concentrated on songs by Muddy Waters ("Sad Sad Day"and "Rock Me") and his circle: Little Walter's "Mean Ole World" and 'Juke," and a loose limbed reading of George "Harmonica"
Smith's "Blues ln The Dark." The'50s Chicago school likewise informs Oscher's originals, with "lda Mae" strongly in the early Muddy Waters style, and the harrowing, minor-ish "Robin Lee" in the vein of strongly Delta-influenced early electric blues by such artists as Waters and Floyd Jones. Oscher steps away from his core sound just twice, first covering Big Joe Turner, whose "Wee Baby Biues,' finds Oscher rolling the ivories Kansas City style, a la Pete Johnson,
then performing a stunning take on "Round Midnight,', stating the theme on bass harmonica before singing over the spare backing of Kid Andersen’s upright
bass and Willie Smith’s brushes, and soloing on a standard harp.
The title cut, a spoken piece in which Oscher reminisces about Little Walter, is nearly worth the price of admission. Further, it is apparent that Oscher has internalized this music effectively as evidenced by his vocals. His harmonica playing is beautifully relaxed and refreshingly improvisational, and his guitar
work is expert - subdued when accompanying his vocal or harp, raw and savage when it is center stage. Real blues fans will treasure Bet On The Blues.
BLUES REVUE MAGAZINE