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The Cash Box Kings - Cuttin’ Heads Live

Blue Midnight Records

9 tracks/49:54

The Cash Box Kings are a mostly young and certainly upcoming Chicago blues band who proudly and more than adequately carry the torch of Chicago blues. Focusing on the style of post-WWII Chicago blues a la Maxwell Street, the band features "Low Rollin'" Joe Nosek on harmonica, rhythm guitar, and vocals, Chris "CB" Boeger on upright bass and vocals, Kenny "Beedy Eyes" Smith on drums and vocals, Travis "White Lighting" Koopman on electric and slide guitar and vocals and Oscar "43rd Street" Wilson on vocals, guitar, and harmonica.

This fourth CD in a very short seven years since their first one is a live offering and serves as a preview of things to come with a soon to be released studio CD. Within this album we see the raw energy and charm of this band and, for the first time on CD since joining the band in 2007, get to hear Oscar Wilson front the group. It is quite the wild ride all around!

There is a good mix of covers and original tunes here. “Honey Bee” opens the set, a song penned by Koopman that offers a lot more of an uptempo take on the Honey Bee theme than the classic Sonny Boy Williamson “Honey Bee Blues”. It’s a hot little jump blues track that sets the tone for a great live set. The other three original tracks are just as hot and show the skills of the band. ‘BC’ Blues, “The Cooker” and “All the Girls I’ve Loved (Have Moved to NYC) are great tunes written by Wilson, Nosek/Koopman and Nosek respectively.

Covers like Muddy’s “Iodine in My Coffee”, Son House’s “Preachin' Blues”, and Tampa Red’s “She Wants to Sell My Monkey” pay homage to the originals yet they seem fresh and clean sounding. “Iodine” gives us our first exposure to the larger than life Wilson, whose career began at age 11 singing at South Side Chicago neighbor Honeyboy Edwards’ house party. I’m also a sucker for a good “Preachin’ Blues” cover, and this one is about as dirty and greasy as it can be done. “Monkey” completes the sequence of the trifecta of fine covers with Wilson again fronting the band. Later we get Joe Clayton’s “Goin’ Down to Eli’s” in a cleaner take that Robert Nighthawk’s version and Lou Reed’s (yes, Lou Reed!) “I’m Waiting for My Man” gets a punk-styled blues treatment. I prefer the earlier three covers, but these later two are not bad, either.

Nosek’s harp work is one of the brightest spots on this nicely done CD that is filled with great musician work. He gets way down and dirty when he needs to and has a great sounding style. Koopman’s guitar work is also quite well done; he and Nosek aptly share the microphone work when Wilson is not out front. “Beedy Eyes” is Willie “Big Eyes” Smith’s son and is a chip off the old block on the skins. Boeger’s upright bass sound blends with Smith’s drumming to give a solid basis for the band. The addition of Oscar Wilson makes the band even more solid and gives them an “authentic” South Side bluesman to front for their youthful skills. After nine great live cuts I was ready for a longer evening of listening to these guys perform live. They are talented and tight little band whom I am sure we will be hearing more and more about as people get turned on to their brand of the blues!.

Reviewer Steve Jones is secretary of the Crossroads Blues Society in Rockford. IL.

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