Cash Box Kings
Full Tilt Boogie From Chicago’s 43rd Street
Some of the albums we review arrive 24 hours prior to release and that does’t all much time to fully appreciate the music and the work involved; others like this turn up two months before release and can regularly command the office CD Player to the detriment of others that need our customary ‘three plays before a write up’ rule.
To the uninitiated; like me, this is Cash Box Kings 11th album in total and third for the legendary Alligator Records and that is evident from the sheer class involved in every single song, nuance and note you hear, here.
The title track Oscar’s Motel starts proceedings and features Singer Oscar Wilson and singer-harpist Joe Nosek up front and centre; where they deserve to be. Wilson has a timeless voice in the style of Muddy and/or John Lee in their younger days; and the song itself will shake not just your hind quarters but your Soul too.
Be under no illusions, Cash Box Kings ain’t just a double act; every single member of the band—featuring guitarist Billy Flynn, drummer Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith, bassist John W. Lauler, and keyboardist Lee Kanehira play their part in making thes4e songs sizzle and wiggle from start to finish.
I doubt I’ll ever get to Chicago in my lifetime; but if I do I’ve always fantasised about walking down a side street and hearing the strains of a song like the most blues-wailing Hot Little Miss or (Sonny Boy Williamson’s) Pontiac Blues drifting out of a wedged open door in the way Indian restaurants used to tempt potential customers inside with the smell of a pungent curry.
That’s actually a better metaphor for the sound hear than I first expected; these songs are all as spicy and hot as any curry I’ve ever had in my life.
So far I’ve absolutely fallen in love with the imagery these Cats create in Down On The Southside and Pontiac Blues; with Hot Little Mess being a fine and sleazy sidewinder coming at you out of the blue.
In some small way this is the type of music that made me first fall in love with the Blues; as we had a couple of similar style bands in Newcastle in the late 70’s; doing covers from the 50’s and 60’s with a couple of originals thrown in … but they never came close to writing songs as complete as She Dropped The Axe on Me and the sizzling version of Muddy Waters’ Please Have Mercy too.
Where to go for a Favourite Song is a dilemma ….. the sweet piano and bewitching guitar and harmonica interplay on the low down and sexy Trying So Hard has to make it a contender, of course it does; but the shuffling I Want What Chaz Has featuring John Nemeth on guest vocals is ‘different’ and ‘different’;’ in a good, good way …. oozing influences as diverse as BB King and Louis Jordan in the mix.
But; and I thought this the first time I played the album; I can’t really look past the Gospelicious Nobody Called It The Blues; as I love it when bands tear up the rule book and try something ‘off book’ …. and when it works; as it does here it makes my heart skip a beat.
While The Cash Box Kings are carrying the torch for this type of Classic Chicago Blues; there’s enough here in their songs to let us know that they still have enough in the tank to keep the show on the road for many years to come.
The final track is actually a Christmas song ….. Ride Santa Ride, which sounds a bit odd playing it in March but I’ve added to my playlist of Christmas songs for the radio show.
Released March 17th 2023
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