In many ways, The Cash Box Kings are a throwback band. They recapture that wild, over-the-top attitude of the great Chess recordings, but they aren’t interested in just reproducing what other people have done, they bring their own compositions to the table and they rock out with whatever they do. The two mainstays of The Cash Box Kings are harpist and occasional lead vocalist Joe Nosek and his partner in crime, vocalist Oscar Wilson.
The rest of the band is what Nosek calls a “collective,” that is performers who come together in different configurations to play on an album or a live performance. No matter who shows up on disc or in person, you are treated to world class bluesmen or women.
For example, on their latest album, the Alligator Records release, Royal Mint, you might get either Billy Flynn or Joel Paterson on guitar. But you just might get them both at the same time. Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith or Mark Haines might be sitting behind the drum set. Brad Ber handles the upright and electric bass; and the newest member, Lee Kanehira steps in to take over the piano after the loss of longtime keyboardist Barrelhouse Chuck.
Special guests include Mel Ford on rhythm guitar; Alex Hall on drums; and The C-Note Horns which consist of Al Falaschi on tenor and baritone sax, Darren Sterud on trombone, and Jim Doherty on trumpet.
The opening track, House Party, doesn’t so much start as it’s just there. It’s a wild party song that gives Flynn and Paterson a chance to really rip into their guitars. Can’t beat this one for sheer fun! Listen for Nosek’s harp to really light up the joint.
The band slows the tempo a little for Jimmy Reed’s I’m Gonna Get My Baby. While they are faithful to the original, they still manage to make it sound as if the song were written exclusively for them. Nosek does a great job on the harp on this number.
The next song, Flood, was originally a Muddy Waters tune. It’s a slow burn of a number and Wilson and Nosek are in complete control. Wilson has an uncanny ability to channel these great singers and still sound like it’s him in control. His vocals are solid and the music is pitch perfect.
The first of a couple of songs dealing with contemporary issues, Build That Wall, follows. Nosek wrote and sings the song and it follows their “bluesabilly” format mixing blues with Memphis style rockabilly. I don’t know what your take is on this polarizing issue, but I can tell you that it’s a killer song!
The next song, also ripped from the headlines is Blues For Chi-Raq. It’s a blistering look at the violence that has plagued Chicago for some time. Wilson digs deep to bring out some of the strongest soul blues around. Both Flynn and Paterson play guitar and it adds to the depth of the song and the staccato playing drives the atmosphere home.
Robert Johnson’s Traveling Riverside Blues follows. Paterson’s guitar sounds otherworldly and Wilson does a great job on the vocals. Following up the previous couple of songs with one of Johnson’s classics is a gutsy move and the band pulls it off nicely.
What follows is a song with the greatest title, If You Got A Jealous Woman Facebook Ain’t Your Friend. Trust me brothers, truer words were never spoken. This is a fun song with a lot of bounce and more than a little tongue in the old cheek. I can guarantee that this is a big hit when they play it live. It’ll put a smile on your face and have a shiver run up your spine at the same time…
Nosek wrote the next song, Daddy Bear Blues, an old-school piano blues song. He also steps behind the mic to take over the vocals. It’s a good slow number that sounds great now, and would not have been out of place in the ‘40’s or ‘50’s.
The Mel London penned Sugar Sweet follows. Nosek’s harp swings us into the song and Wilson’s vocals take it from there. It’s a good Chicago sound number that relies heavily on the piano and harp. You can’t help but get excited by this number.
I’m A Stranger starts out with a blistering intro before Wilson’s vocals come in. The three words in the title sum up some of the best blues songs ever, and we’ve all been strangers at some point in our lives. It’s a great tune and I’m sure I’ll be playing it on Time For The Blues soon.
Wilson wrote the next song, I Come All The Way From Chi-Town. Wilson was born and raised in the blues – many of the greats made their way through his house and he made his professional debut at a house party alongside David “Honeyboy” Edwards. Now he’s singing around the world and he delivers on this slow, controlled number.
Need a party song? You can’t go wrong with Chenier’s All Night Long. Here, the Cash Box Kings let loose with a raucous good time and Wilson shouts to the high heavens throughout the song. This is one that should be played anytime there’s a party somewhere…
They end the album on its shortest song, Don’t Let Life Tether You Down. Written by Nosek, who also sings the number, it’s a bouncy tune in a ragtime vibe. It’s a fun song and some great advice. Hope we all take it.
The Cash Box Kings are a welcome addition to the Alligator family. After all, that’s a label that owes its continued success to finding new artists, as well as established ones, that can take their blues audiences to new levels. Nosek and Wilson, along with their collective, can play the blues like nobody’s business and they will continue to create new sounds for older music while remaining true to the genre. I think they are a great band and I can’t wiat for more albums from them.
If you want to check them out, please start at their website, https://www.cashboxkings.com/, to get caught up on their previous work and to see where they will be playing next. And remember, Royal Mint releases on June 30, so you can preorder your copy now!