Since he began playing harmonica in Muddy Water’s band while still a teenager, singer and multi-instrumentalist and multiple WC Handy award winner Paul Oscher has remained a living legend on the blues scene. After dazzling Waters when he sat in with his band in 1967 and was hired on the spot, Oscher toured and recorded several records with Muddy on the Chess label including the acclaimed “Live at Mr Kelley’s”. This was the record which marked the turning point in Muddy Waters career and was instrumental in influencing many of the younger blues artists of today. Paul toured the U.S. and Europe with Muddy at a time when the great piano player Otis Spann was in the band and Muddy was still playing Chitlin’ Circuit clubs. It was during this time that Oscher while in Waters’ Band also backed up many of the great blues greats like T-Bone Walker, John Lee Hooker, Lightnin’ Hopkins , Albert King and Big Mama Thornton. Paul also recorded with Johnny Copeland on his first album the “Copeland Special”. Recordings with Hubert Sumlin, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Levon Helm, Keb Mo and Mos Def are also among Oscher’s credits.
Paul has been performing as a solo performer at Blues Festivals and Performing Arts centers since 2001 garnering rave reviews for his solo show “Alone with the Blues.” He moved to Austin last year and established a residence at the Railroad Barbecue. With the untimely closing of that landmark, his residence moved to C-boy’s. Although he still tours as a solo act, he has since formed his own band with local Austin musicians and performs at C-boy’s every Thursday 6:30 PM to 9:00PM when he’s not on the road.
Last weekend, Austinites were lucky enough to catch him and his mighty band at C-Boy’s Heart and Soul in a special weekend show that epitomized what live music in Austin is all about.
C-Boy’s Heart and Soul is the latest venue backed by the renowned Steve Wertheimer, who owns the iconic Continental Club. With just the right mix of class and funk, C-Boys is the perfect club to showcase local and national talent. Oscher drew the crowd in immediately with his sultry growl, classic blues harmonica playing, low-down guitar style and down–in –the- alley piano playing, especially on tunes like T-Bone Walker’s “Train Rolled in the Station," Muddy’s “Honeybee,” and Paul’s own “Robin Lee “.
Oscher’s band is equally impressive, as Sarah Brown displayed some fierce bass playing and Tom Robinson wailed on the Saxophone. Mike Keller’s skilled guitar work perfectly dovetailed with Oscher’s low down blues style while Jay Mueller took care of the rhythm work.
Oscher is not just a musical treasure, he’s also a skilled storyteller, with a trove of stories about the legends he’s played with. While he was playing with Muddy Waters, he lived in Muddy’s house on Chicago’s Southside and shared the basement with Otis Spann. The stories Paul tells about beating Little Walter at 3-Card Monte and setting Muddy Water’s hair on fire are just two of the best.
Paul featured Texas blues singer Pamela Allen as a guest on his show. When Ms. Allen took the stage, the energy in the room became exhilarating. Dressed to the nines in a black cocktail dress, Allen mingled among the crowd with a long mic cord as she belted out the line, “I can purr like a kitten, I can roar like a lion.” She wasn’t kidding. Her voice, at once sultry and fierce, pulled the audience to its feet, as she launched into a killer version of Little Walter’s “My Babe” with Paul playing the harmonica part in a neck rack. It was a joyous performance as her deep full throttle vocals thrilled on songs like “You Better Leave My Baby Alone” and “Big Boss Man.” Miss Allen is a Texas treasure and blues fans need to see more of her .
Paul will be playing another weekend gig at C-Boys featuring Pamela Allen this Labor day weekend Aug 29 and 30th.Oscher will also be heading to the Ottawa Jazz and Blues Festival on July 12 and 13th, then Wilmington Riverfront festival on Aug 2 and then on to The Blues in Hell Festival in Norway and more European shows in September.
Paul Oscher and his band are living proof that the Blues are alive and well in Austin. As one audience member remarked, “It's been more than 10 years since I've seen a Blues show that truly reminded me of the great blues shows produced by Clifford Antone.”