The Cash Box Kings Holler and Stomp (Blind Pig) Although almost all of the blues musicians who recorded on Chess and Sun Records in the 1950s are gone, the classic sounds of the era live on in Chicago’s The Cash Box Kings. Holler and Stomp includes original members Joe Nosek, Chris “CB” Boeger and Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith, as well as renowned guest musicians Billy Flynn, Barrelhouse Chuck Goering, Jimmy Sutton and others.
The originals pay tribute to classic blues. “That’s My Gal” sounds like Slim Harpo’s “Scratch My Back,” “Tribute to the Black Lone Ranger” sounds like “Got My Mojo Working,” and “Barnyard Pimp” is reminiscent of Jimmy Rogers and Jimmy Reed. It’s no wonder, as Nosek has spent a couple of decades learning from and playing with some of the greats, as has Kenny Smith, perhaps the world’s best blues drummer since the passing of his dad, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith. In addition, Billy Flynn and Barrelhouse Chuck are a direct link to the musicians the band honors. Also, the group used vintage equipment to record at Sutton’s Hi-Style studios.
The Cash Box Kings have gone back to the same influences that resulted in the early Chicago electric blues and brought that sound to the present without being processed by all of the filters of the decades between then and now. Their new compositions blend well with the 50- to 60-year-old covers, contributing to the vitality of the album.
Philip Glass The Essential Philip Glass (Sony Classical) Few composers of “contemporary classical music,” much less opera, have found as large and welcome an audience as Philip Glass. The prolific composer and recording artist is honored for his 75th birthday with a triple-CD “best of” collection covering the late ’70s through almost now. There is variation in his minimalist sound. “Lightning” and “Changing Opinion” sound indebted to Kraftwerk in one of Glass’ rare deliberate overtures to the wide popular culture that found him on its own. Mostly, his music moves with the graceful solemnity and icy beauty of an iceberg in the sun. His operas (Satyagraha and Akhnaten are sampled here) are among the few recent works in that form gladly heard by audiences outside the conservatory.
Tom Klein At the Line Milwaukee-area musician Tom Klein gives the bum’s rush to the influence of ’80s soft/folk rock on today’s indie sphere. His At the Line harkens to the real-deal male sensitivity of James Taylor and Jackson Browne. Although intended as an unplugged project for acoustic guitar, piano and Klein’s clear, quavering voice, the album was fleshed out by friends on a variety of instruments, including occasionally funky bass and what sounds to be sitar. If un-ironic retro adult contemporary sounds continue to find an audience, then Klein is a star in the making.
—Jamie Lee Rake