The Deep Blues Of Paul Oscher

Paul Oscher

Blues Planet Records, 1996

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


The blues is not always a pretty form of music. It deals with dirty dealings, betrayal, pain, and broken hearts - and it's one of the most enjoyable forms of music out there.

Paul Oscher knows about the blues, having been a member of Muddy Waters' band. He's recently had his own share of hard luck, and has pooled all of his pain into The Deep Blues Of Paul Oscher, a gritty portrait of the blues created away from the polish of the studio. It's occasionally tough to listen to, but is a worthwhile trip to take.

In one sense, listening to this album is a sad affair, as it features some of the final performances of drummer S.P. Leary, who recently passed away. It's interesting to note that on all nine tracks Leary appears on, he used brushes on the drums instead of sticks. This adds a slightly more gentle touch to the percussion, but also gives it a more raw sound.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

A good portion of these tracks were recorded in a one-day session to DAT as they were played; no 24-track recording, no fancy mixing... just the blues, pure and sweaty. As a result, you can hear some mistakes as the tunes were played - a missed beat here, a slip on the skins there. While this adds a bit of humanity to the music, some people might be a bit shocked by the lack of polish to the music.

Oscher successfully mixes splashes of gospel ("Satan's Woman") and just good-ol' good times music ("Summer Jam") into the mix, as well as a touch of humor ("Traffic Problem"), and for the most part, the performances here are very good. He proves himself to be a capable piano and guitar player, though I would have liked to hear more work on the harmonica; it seems to come to the forefront only on "Money Makin' Woman".

A central theme throughout this album is relationship troubles (which Oscher apparently had experienced just before entering the studio). "Maxine" finds our hero pining for a love he has just lost to another, while "Robin Lee" deals with an entirely different type of loss. In a similar vein, "Forget About Your Used To Be" finds Oscher trying to convince his new love to stop thinking about her ex.

If there is anything which is frustrating about The Deep Blues Of Paul Oscher, it is a difficult album to listen to in one sitting. Whether this is the unpolished sound or the often depressing themes I don't know, but it took me a couple of attempts to get through this one. But once you've listened to the album a couple of times, it really begins to grow on you, and its true beauty begins to shine forth. Problem is, many people might not be willing to listen to an album five times to gain an appreciation for it - too bad.

One thing that can't be denied about this album is that, for a good portion of the time, the music is very low-key and subdued. Often you find yourself waiting for Oscher to really burst forth and lead this band into a raucous jam session. If only this had indeed happened; it would have been a lot of fun to listen to.

The Deep Blues Of Paul Oscher is a portrait of one of the blues's living legends who has been pushed aside for no good reason. While this album is a good step forward in his expressing his independence, he still needs a coat of paint or two to really come into his own - and given the chance, he'll successfully do that.

Rating: B-

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© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Blues Planet Records, and is used for informational purposes only.