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CD REVIEW -- Oscar Wilson
GLT blues radio

OSCAR WILSON
One Room Blues

with Joel Paterson, Sam Burckhardt, Pete Benson, Beau Sample and Alex Hall
Airway Records

Oscar Wilson One Room Blue CD art

 by Lee Ann Flynn


13 Tracks: 
1. When I Was Young
2.  Lost Mind 
3.  Found Love
4.  Blackjack
5.  Reconsider Baby
6.  Texas Turnaround 
7.  The River’s Invitation 
8.  I’m Lost Without  You
9.  Farther Up The Road 
10. Your Letter 
11.  Every Day I Have The Blues 
12. One Room Country Shack 
13.  Happy Reunion 


Oscar Wilson is a Chicago original from 43rd Street, as he grew up immersed in the blues.  He was 11 years old when he was first mentored by the legendary David “Honeyboy” Edwards, during house parties and barbeques.  He has continued to sing in the old school blues style from Chicago to Mississippi.   Oscar remains as the loveable blues singer for the Cash Box Kings, a position he has held since 2009. But the gifted song stylist always yearned to stretch out his versatile pipes and sing some jazzy blues and other styles. He knew just who to call to make it happen.

Joel Paterson (guitar), Sam Burckhardt (tenor sax), Pete Benson (organ and piano), Beau Sample (bass), and Alex Hall (drums) provide the music to Oscar’s vocals on One Room Blues. 

Joel Paterson is one of the most versatile guitarists on the Chicago music scene; it just might be easier to state which genres he does not play, than it is to cover the many he does play, which includes blues, jazz, and rockabilly.  He is the lead guitarist for the Cash Box Kings and also has his own history of touring with the legendary David “Honeyboy” Edwards, in addition to many other notable musicians.  Joel is a member of many other bands, including The Modern Sounds and The Joel Paterson Trio; he is also the president of Ventrella Records, which focuses on roots music.   In addition, Joel seems to have an endless supply of really good ideas, one of which is this CD.   
Joel Paterson explains the why this CD was put together in the liner notes:  “The idea to record the album, One Room Blues, came from a need to have something to sell at the 2017 Basel Blues Festival (in Switzerland), but producing this project quickly turned into a true labor of love.  It became a unique chance to put together – in one room --musicians who could play many different styles of traditional blues and R&B with great technique and real soul.”    

Sam Burckhardt (who hails from Basel, Switzerland) also has an incredibly wealthy blues history as he moved from drums to saxophone, and joined Sunnyland Slim’s band in 1982.  He has played in a variety of notable Chicago bands which feature jump blues, jazz, swing and traditional blues.   He, along with Joel Paterson, co-produced One Room Blues, and he recently described the recording process to us:  what was very important to both Joel and myself was that we recorded a moment in time rather than manufacture a “perfect” recording. In other words, we went into the studio and recorded the songs as they developed. The record is intentionally named “One Room Blues” since we recorded the CD in one room, all together, without the option of changing the voice or sax or guitar track after the recording.”  Sam also shared his impression of Reliable Recorders, the studio where One Room Blues was recorded in just two days: 
This is my second recording at Reliable Recorders, the studio of Alex Hall. What I love about his set-up is the fact that he sets all the microphones and spaces for each instrument beforehand, and once we record he is behind the drum-set, and no one interferes with the process of making music, as we do on stage.”  The way Burckhardt plays saxophone around Oscar’s vocals sounds as if they have been at this for decades, with such a consistent, natural flow. 

Pete Benson is another a veteran on the music scene and his resume includes performing with the Sabertooth Organ Quartet for 15 years at the Green Mill Lounge, also the Chicago Jazz Orchestra, and he is well known at many of Chicago’s premier jazz hotspots, including The Pump Room, as well as other venues.  He first started on piano before he was ten and the organ followed soon after that.    

Beau Sample has been playing bass, starting on electric then adding upright, with a focus in jazz and rockabilly, and he plays with Joel Paterson in The Modern Sounds.  He has also played electric bass on the last Cash Box Kings release, Holding Court, as well as Billy Boy Arnold’s Sings Big Bill Broonzy.  Sample is a founding member of the trad jazz band Fat Babies, who record for the Delmark label.

Alex Hall is an established drummer on Chicago’s jazz and rockabilly music scene as well as the engineer at Chicago’s Reliable Recorders.  He is also in The Fat Babies with Beau Sample and has worked on many projects with Joel Paterson, including the I Say What I Mean CD with Jim Liban.  He is both the drummer and engineer of One Room Blues, and he recently shared his experience with us:   
We had a blast making it.  The session itself was done at Reliable Recorders, which is my studio space in Logan Square.  We cut the tracks over a couple of chilly days in January, all of us playing and Oscar singing in the same room (hence the name) without headphones.  The engineering was simple; I use a minimum number old ribbon and tube mics to capture the sound as honestly as possible.  As I was doing double duty as drummer and engineer, we tracked live to the computer and mixed the project later to analog 1/4" tape.” 

The result is a CD that sounds like a vinyl LP from the early 1960s. There are 13 total tracks, of which two are really well-suited instrumental originals:  Track 6 is Joel Paterson’s rollicking “Texas Turnaround” and Track 13 is Sam Burckhardt’s swingin’ “Happy Reunion.” 

The remaining 11 tracks are really thoughtful cover songs, including two Percy Mayfield tunes, Lowell Fulson’s “Reconsider Baby,”  Sunnyland Slim’s “When I Was Young” and the classic Ray Charles’ “Blackjack.”  What really impresses is how easily Oscar Wilson can move from blues to jazz while maintaining his consistent soulful vocals as he puts life into so many great songs. One Room Blues is further proof that Wilson knows how to wrap his rich, warm baritone around an oft-covered classic and own it. 

As for Wilson’s backup players, it would be nearly impossible to select which song showcases each musician’s talents the best; Joel, Sam, Alex, Pete and Beau are all consistently brilliant across the entire CD and they serve each song with exactly what it needs. Even though this grouping of like-minded musicians wasn’t initiated to form a working band, I must confess I hope they do this again!   

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