The Cash Box Kings – Oscar’s Motel
What’s there not to like about the Cash Box Kings? Extraordinarily talented musicians, great vocals, excellent songwriting, and an intriguing approach to reviving the traditional Chicago blues sound. The band has been together since 2001 and consists of Oscar Wilson on vocals, Joe Nosek on harmonica and acoustic guitar, Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith on drums, John Lauler on bass (sounding especially good on the upright bass), Billy Flynn on guitar, and Lee Kanehira on keyboards. Their latest release, Oscar’s Motel, also includes some exciting special guests, including John Nemeth, Deitra Farr and Cameron Webb on vocals and Al Falaschi and Jim Doherty on horns.
The album begins with the extremely inviting song, “Oscar’s Motel”, with such lyrics as “If you feel down and out, come to Oscar’s Motel. Oscar will treat you right after you tell your man farewell…when you get tired, I’ve got a great big bed!” This is an original song, but the Howlin’ Wolf influence can definitely be heard. The second track, “Down on the South Side” is so effective at creating a visual image, that listeners will almost feel as if they are right there in the club.
There are two very playful songs on the album. Blues Music Award Nominee, Deitra Farr, joins Oscar Wilson for a cute song about a roller-coaster type of relationship, entitled “I can’t Stand You”. And multiple Blues Music Award winner, John Nemeth, (who could likely sing from the phone book and fans would still like it), joins for a clever song about intense envy entitled “I want What Chaz Has”.
There are two classic covers on this album: Muddy Waters’ “Please Have Mercy” and “Pontiac Blues” by Sonny Boy Williamson II. Little Walter left big shoes to fill for anyone wanting to cover “Please Have Mercy”, but Nosek skillfully meets that challenge in the Cash Box Kings’ version.
The only fairly serious song on this album. “Nobody Called it the Blues”, begins with a haunting and beautiful acapella gospel introduction. The song then quickly merges into a well-written educative piece about slavery with the perfect contribution by guest vocalist Cameron Webb.
There are truly no weak aspects to this album, and it’s refreshing to hear a contemporary band effectively honor the old but give it a fresh new twist.