The Cash Box Kings – Black Toppin’ (2013)

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The Cash Box Kings reanimate that moment when popular music — both black and white — began to coalesce into the rock ‘n’ roll aesthetic. It’s loud music, fun music, occasionally delving into darker themes, but possessing an impetuous, undeniable rhythm.

Yes, the Kings — anchored by harpist Joe Nosek, vocalist Oscar Wilson, drummer Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith and guitarist Joel Peterson — shudder, yelp and grind to their own special beat. In a genre rife with too-safe revivalists, these Chicago-based young turks keep their own counsel — and they write their own stuff.

Other than a well-placed swipe at, say, Willie Dixon’s ageless “Too Late,” Black Toppin’ — due March 12, 2013, from Bling Pig — is more typically concerned with offering smart originals. And in one more example of their no-holds-barred attitude, the Cash Box Kings also bring in next-gen influences, referencing the Rolling Stones, even offering a very cool closing romp through Lou Reed’s “Run Run Run.”

Nosek, who produced, wrote five of the tunes here (including the howlingly soulful opener “Blues Falling Down on Me”), while Wilson added three more (among them, the randy title cut). Each of them is a stripped down, nervy delight — reminiscent and connective, but often possessing this utterly unique new feel, a combining of blues and rockabilly that imbues Black Toppin’ (even more so than its predecessor, the more country blues-focused Holler and Stomp) with a freshness and intensity.

Songs like “Gimme Some of That,” “Oscar’s Jump,” “Trying Really Hard” and “I Don’t Wanna Fight” sound like Chess guys doing a Sun Records session — like something you’ve heard before, but then again nothing like it. Black Toppin’ is the clearest, strongest distillation yet of their emerging “blues-a-billy” sound.

Not that they’re ungrateful. The Cash Box Kings, in fact, have dedicated Black Toppin’ to several icons who have passed on (among them Smith’s father Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, as well as Pinetop Perkins, Honey Boy Edwards and Hubert Sumlin) since their last album. Still, they remain happily, gloriously, perfectly unbound from the outsized legacies that came before.

Long live the Kings.

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