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CD REVIEW --  Glenn Kaiser

GLENN KAISER

Cardboard Box

Grrr Records

Glenn Kaiser CD art

By Mark Baier

Preaching from the bandstand has long been an evangelical mainstay. Throughout history, the Word has been spread through verse, melody and rhyme. Those blessed to have experienced Glenn Kaiser know that he has been an important modern Musical Minister, throwing down a brand of hard rock with his Resurrection Band that never strays from its message of God’s Love. His feral, emotional guitar playing is always compelling, delivered in a hard-driving blues rock vein. With his latest release, Cardboard Box, Glenn demonstrates a completely different side of his evangelical bag of tricks. Stripping the instrumentation to a minimum, Kaiser offers up a set of songs accompanied only by guitar and harmonica. The CD’s theme, recognizing the social tragedies of poverty and homelessness, fits the sparse production perfectly. 

 

Kaiser kicks off Cardboard Box with a big 12-string barrage, reminiscent of Barbeque Bob, named “Unemployment Blues”. The emotion is real and the conviction certain when Glenn cries out  ”I don’t need your pity, I just need a place to lay my head”. “Loading Dock” marches along in a John Lee Hooker vamp, with Glenn accompanying himself on drums. Kaiser’s superior vocal skills are apparent on  “Opportunity Dance”, a song that could easily be classic Bob Seger, were it not for the emotive story about the indignity of living on the streets. Such a personal honest account could only come from first hand experience.

 

 Singer Ami Moss and harp great Joe Filisko make cameo appearances; Moss on “The Protest” and Filisko on “Poverty Blues” and the title track, “Cardboard Box”. Kaiser’s approach, while spartan, is not entirely acoustic. Loud electric guitars drive a couple of the tracks, and the stinging power of the electric is commanding and fierce when Kaiser wields it as a solo instrument. The combination of Filisko’s electrified harmonica and Kaiser’s guitar on “Cardboard Box” are persuasive weapons indeed. If Son House had an electric in 1930, he may have sounded very similar.

 

The tales of raw life on the streets that are found on Cardboard Box startlingly real and poignant. The CD contains a dozen tracks, each of which serves as reminder of life lived under the radar screen. These are stories of humanity “off the books”.

 

Glenn Kaiser’s familiarity with this material is obvious, and is borne of his lifelong commitment to the ministry to the homeless and indigent in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood. He is the leader of the Cornerstone Community Outreach center (CCO), which is an oasis of hope and change for thousands of Chicago’s needy. In a world where finger pointing and scapegoating pass for political action, Kaiser selflessly has put his money (literally) where his mouth is and is making a difference. One man can do much if he decides to make a difference in this world. Through Glenn, The Jesus People USA Evangelical Covenant Church and the CCO center are making that difference. The material accompanying the CD is as powerful as the music itself, featuring photographs of the CCO’s visitors and residents, each of which serve as a reminder of their individual humanity. These are people, not numbers or things. Homelessness and poverty are dehumanizing, the victims regarded as objects. Glenn’s commitment to their dignity is humbling. If this CD accomplishes only one thing, it should cause us to remember that if not for the Grace of God, there go I.

 

Go ahead, make a difference. The proceeds of the sale of Cardboard Box go directly to the CCO, not a faceless bureaucracy. To quote the liner notes:

 

            As a ministry of Jesus People USA Evangelical Covenant Church (JPUSA), Cornerstone Community Outreach(CCO) was founded in 1989 in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood. CCO provides housing, food and various services to 500 women, children and men in need. Glenn and Grrr Records are hoping through this project to shine a light on the many residents and clients at CCO and the tireless efforts of its staff, and also to put a focus on the issue of homelessness in Chicago and the country at large. Grrr Records is donating the majority of the proceeds from the sales of this recording to CCO.

 

For more information, visit www.ccolife.org and www.grrrrecords.com

 

Chicago Blues Guide recommends visiting www.glennkaiser.com for a complete biography of Glenn. He has led an amazing life, much of which is documented in You Tube videos. Go ahead, make a difference and enjoy some REAL BLUES in the process.

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