Cash Box Kings – Holding Court (2015)

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Plenty of bands, it seems, reference the nervy, stripped-down feel of post-war blues, but few play it with such unbridled passion and steely resolve as the Cash Box Kings. Holding Court isn’t music that builds off that tradition; it’s music that advances this sound, reconstituted, into a new age.

Joe Nosek and Oscar Wilson channel legends like Little Walter and Muddy Waters, respectively, with the ease of acolytes who’ve dug deeper than the songs everybody knows. And so, Holding Court speaks to the Chicago-blues aesthetic, even as it reminds us of the many musical strands — jump blues, New Orleans R&B, ragtime and swamp pop — that made up its crazy-cool quilt of influences.

At the same time, the subject matter on the Cash Box Kings’ originals from Holding Court (gentrification’s very real fallout for the people pushed out, the impact of a digital age on making music) is often stubbornly contemporary. That, too, is in keeping with the Cash Box King’s familiar forebears, who stood as mirrors of their own period’s nagging questions.

As such, this Blind Pig Records release adds new context to the Cash Box Kings’ 2011 debut for the label, since Holler and Stomp dealt more exclusively with traditional blues and country styles — even as it echoes the triumphs of their more recent Black Toppin.’ The Cash Box Kings have only sharpened their skills at pairing well-chosen covers (John Lee Hooker, Willie Love, Jimmy Rogers) with just-right originals, setting a fresh template to reframe this music for today’s audiences.

Nosek and Wilson are joined on the Cash Box King’s Holding Court by Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith, whose lineage also goes back to Chicago’s earliest and most important sides, as well as Joel Paterson, Billy Flynn, Beau Samples, Barrelhouse Chuck and others.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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