The Cash Box Kings are on Alligator Records. Who’d-a thunk? I hired these guys for our first festival back in 2010. They were surely on the rise, given the talent in the band, and they released many great CDs over the years by themselves, on Blind Pig and now on Alligator, the premier label for blues. They’ve headlined festivals, travelled the world and garnered all sort of accolades, and do you know what? They deserve it!
The boys have come a long way, with fantastic vocals, some outstanding harp, and two great guitar players. Barrelhouse Chuck has been featured on piano on prior CDs and the band dedicates this album to him, one of the most talented and exciting piano players whom I have had the pleasure to hear, know and love. Joining Oscar Wilson on vocals, Joe Nosek on harp and vocals, Billy Flynn and Joel Paterson on guitar is Lee Kanehira on the piano and he does a beautiful job. No one can fill Chuck’s shoes but Lee is a super piano player in his own right and makes this jumping CD fill out nicely. Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith returns on drums for the first, fifth and seventh cuts and Mark Haines is on drums on the rest of the songs with percussion except for one track. All do an excellent job. Brad Ber is an outstanding upright and electric bass player and is he always a stalwart for the band.
Mel Ford plays some rhythm guitar on seven cuts and anything Mel ever does is good stuff. I was glad to hear him join in here. Alex Hall is featured on drums on “Flood.” The C-Note Horns join in on the fifth track; they are Al Falaschi on tenor and baritone sax, Darren Sterud on trombone and Jim Doherty on trumpet. These guys are all stars. Falaschi also adds his horns to a couple of other tracks. The band has wisely added some great special guest with these guys and Kanehira on piano!
A rousing and stomping version of “House Party” opens up the CD with the CBK’s in their zone. They jump and jive with Oscar howling out he lead and Joe offering up some greasy and distorted harp. Paterson and Flynn tear it up on guitar and Falaschi’s horns add some nice stuff to the mix, too, along with some piano. “I’m Gonna Get My Baby” is another classic where Wilson gets some response from the band to his calls. More slick harp here, too, and the piano gets a little more exposure here. It’s another one that will get you up to dance. Muddy Water’s “Flood” is next, and Wilson and Company give it its’ due. True to the original, the boys play some slick slow blues for us as Oscar testifies. Kanehira’s piano gets a pretty solo that would make the old masters proud. Billy follows with his own guitar solo and then Nosek builds on that with his harp. One of my favorite slow blues songs and these guys nailed it.
The first original is “Build That Wall,” a tongue in cheek narrative and social commentary. Nosek gets his first shot fronting the band with his song and he does a fantastic job. This jump tune features barrelhouse piano, lots of call and response, a huge Chuck Berry-styled guitar solo by Billy and lots lots of hand clapping to add to the beat. It’s a great new song! “Blues for Chi-Raq” follows that, another original penned by Joe and Oscar. This one bemoans the violence and problems in Oscar’s neighborhood. All the horns are here, Flynn and Paterson are both in the fray, Kenny Smith is on drums again, and Nosek’s harp is part of the great mix as Oscar testifies to us. The old Robert Johnson “Traveling Riverside Blues” gets a nice and stripped down cover here with Oscar offering some hot vocals and Joel playing some electric guitar and slide.
The next new cut is “If You Got A Jealous Woman Facebook Ain’t Your Friend.” The title tells it all. Oscar wails, Paterson and Flynn tear the house down and Nosek blows some more mean harp. It’s a jumping tune for sure! “Daddy Bear Blues” is also new, a thoughtful and pensive sort of cut with nice piano work, Nosek offering up a tasteful vocal and Flynn tinkling on his Mandolin. Well done! Next up is “Sugar Sweet,” a Mel London song that Muddy first released in 1955 as a Chess side. Nosek amps up the harp here from the original and Oscar’s vocals are smooth in contrast to Muddy’s. Kanehira’s piano also plays a bigger role and Flynn’s guitar was up to the task- well done again! “I’m A Stranger” is an old Lightnin’ Hopkins’ slow blues and the band does it up nicely. Wilson, Flynn, Nosek and Kanehira all play a big part and make this sound good.
Wilson’s “I Come All The Way from Chi-Town” is up next, a down tempo, stripped down slow blues with Paterson on electric guitar and Nosek on harp behind Oscar. It’s very cool and minimalistic in it’s approach; it’s got an electric front porch sort of style to it. A rousing version of “All Night Long” follows with Oscar calling out the melody and the boys responding. The sax is back, the piano is huge, Flynn is masterful and the tune rocks as the band obviously has a good time. The CD concludes with Nosek’s “Don’t Let Life Tether You Down.” Haines beats out a great groove, Kanehira plays with great chops and Flynn and Ber add to the mix as Nosek leads the final charge in this optimistic and fun little number that ends up on a positive note.
The guys hold nothing back and offer up a juicy and sweet album for all of us to savor. It’s hard to beat their recent prior stuff but they have- this is a really fine album and it belongs in any blues fans collection. These guys can jump and swing with anyone- go buy this one now! You won’t regret it!