The Cash Box Kings

I-94 Blues

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The Cash Box Kings are hard to pigeonhole. Like Roomful of Blues and Rick Estrin & the Nightcats, the band mines the sounds of the past, loosely basing its style on the early records put out by the Chess and Sun labels. They also blend in New Orleans second-line rhumba, acoustic Delta and country blues, swing, blues-rock, and other influences. They gig regularly around the Chicago area and put on a live show that shows off their first-class chops with an off-the-cuff feel that seems almost improvised. Two fine vocalists front the band. Joe Nosek, who is also a remarkable harp player and songwriter, has an aggressive vocal approach, while Oscar Wilson harks back to the mellow Kansas City blues shouters. Their complementary styles give the band an impressive flexibility as they deliver 15 smokin' tunes -- ten originals that sound like they're classics and five well-chosen covers. "Default Boogie" is, as you'd expect, a topical boogie tune with Wilson delivering a sardonic lead vocal and Billy Flynn adding some chiming blues mandolin. Nosek sings "Mellow Chick Swing," which is driven by Joel Paterson's acoustic guitar, mixed up to play neatly off of Barrelhouse Chuck's thumping piano. "St. Paul Wintertime Blues" is a slow dirty Chicago blues with a weary vocal from Nosek and Paterson's stinging slide guitar hot enough to raise blisters. "Hittin on My Baby" is an acoustic country shuffle based on "Diggin' My Potatoes." Paterson's lead guitar lines are alternately jazzy and down-home; Jimmy Sutton takes the song home with a slappin' standup bass solo. They close the album with a jump blues version of Willie McTell's "Warm It Up to Me," featuring Barrelhouse Chuck's vigorous piano fills and Nosek's wailing harp and seductive vocals.

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