"Stylistically the effect of the music parallels coming home from a trip to Maxwell Street with a box of dusty 45s and 78s on labels like Ora-Nelle, Blue Lake, Parrot or Cobra - rough and tumble, meat and potatoes Chicago blues."
-Dick Shurman blues critic/producer
"I live my life around playing Old School Chicago Blues and when I worked with the Cash Box Kings, I knew I was 'home.' They are masters of the style and language of that music, playing deep on the most advanced level."
-Steady Rollin' Bob Margolin
With the Royal Treatment the Cash Box Kings continue and strengthen their breakout from the Midwestern blues bar circuit to international recognition as recording and performing artists. Notice is duly served that they are ready for inclusion among the illustrious torch bearers for not one but two proud blues traditions. With a deep commitment to those roots and a freshness which has generated nine originals on this CD, the Cash Box Kings are starting to make their own mark.
The Cash Box Kings have been passionate exponents of vintage Chicago and Delta blues from their inception. That happened after a 2000 event in Madison, Wisconsin where former Chicagoan vocalist, harp player and guitarist Joe Nosek crossed paths with Janesville, Wisconsin native singer-guitarist Travis Koopman and highly regarded and impeccably pedigreed Chicago drummer Kenny Smith (son of Muddy’s longtime drummer Willie Smith). With bassist Chris Boeger, the group dedicated itself to those timeless Windy City and Mississippi blues sounds, fashioning a gritty ensemble-based evocation of Chess, Sun, Muddy, Roberts Johnson and Nighthawk and other historical bulwarks, driven by Nosek’s Chicago-styled harp work, Koopman’s incisive slide and fretted picking and a democratic approach to vocals, even including Kenny Smith (though not on this CD.)
Since its genesis, the group has progressed to bring its wild, raucous live show to the major blues hot spots in Chicago, Milwaukee, Indianapolis and Minneapolis, started making the European rounds (thanks in part to Smith’s connections there) and seen reviews of its first two CDs in a widening array of blues publications. Clearly the band is on an upward arc in its ongoing quest to keep the Chicago blues torch burning brightly.
It’s clear via The Royal Treatment that the years, hard work and miles are paying off. The outing was recorded live without monitors or headphones on a single February, 2006 afternoon in Chicago at the ambient, high-ceilinged Electrical Audio Studio,” warts and all” according to Nosek. He goes on, “We attempted to record the album in much the same way records were made during the post-war era. We tried to make a record that was as ‘real’ and ‘organic’ sounding as possible and placed great emphasis on ensemble playing. We focus on playing as a cohesive ensemble. We really listen and try to feel what each of us is playing when we play – we never try to outdo or upstage each other. We really concentrate on pouring a lot of teamwork, spontaneity, and spirit/high energy into each of our performances. We feel that the new recording is our best effort yet. We also feel that it is the most representative of our band’s sound. We are very proud of the results.” Those results consist of thirteen evenly allotted vocals and a Nosek instrumental feature. The program has a goodly share of rousing solo work such as Nosek on his own “The Low Roller” and Koopman on “New Boogie Woogie Baby” and his self-penned “Life Is Tough Sometimes,” but it really is about teamwork, interaction, convergences, weaving lines together and the song. Koopman contributes three compositions, Nosek six. Stylistically the effect parallels coming home from a trip to Maxwell Street with a box of dusty 45s and 78s on labels like Ora-Nelle, Blue Lake, Parrot or Cobra – rough and tumble, meat and potatoes Chicago blues, with far more substance than pretension. Pianist Ken Saydak adds his usual quality contribution to three tracks, again in what is very much an ensemble context.
As they continue their rounds of Midwestern interstates and occasional trans-Atlantic flights, the Cash Box Kings promise a lot more in the years ahead. The ongoing attrition of the milieu they venerate only increases their motivation and sense of mission. According to Nosek, “We are all very dedicated to carrying on the musical traditions of the post-war Chicago blues era. All of us, especially Kenny who grew up around most of the originators of that musical art form, feel really passionate about keeping this music alive. We recognize that the audience for this type of music is shrinking, especially with people from our generation. That’s why, despite the lack of decent paying gigs out there, we’re still trying to bring this music to the general public. We’re also starting to do more and more musical educational programs and workshops about the blues for young kids around the Midwest with the hope that we can make a musical connection with people at an early age.” In “Daddy Bear Blues,” Nosek talks about ranging from Milwaukee to Ohio. The Royal Treatment provides a joyous opportunity for longtime and new blues lovers of any age and places in between and a lot further afield to make the connection, and be glad of it.