There are numerous reasons I-94 might give you the blues, whether it's 5:00 gridlock or the recently announced resurfacing project that's bound to create headaches this summer. For Joe Nosek and the rest of the Cash Box Kings, I-94 is the highway to love gone wrong.
The group's song "I-94 Blues" is just one excellent track off of their new album of the same name. In its short life, the disc's already caught the attention of acoustic music lovers from the blogosphere and NPR's "Morning Edition," and thanks to its team of Madison- and Chicago-based notables -- Joel Paterson on national steel guitar, Billy Flynn on banjo, Barrelhouse Chuck on piano and Jimmy Sutton on upright bass -- this track is on the fast track to favorite status in many a local jukebox.
However, it's the quality and emotion of the song rather than the names on the marquee that are likely to make the tune a hit.
Nosek, singer for the Madison-based traditional blues outfit, kicks it off with a lament of "I had a woman and she had me / She had me swingin' like a monkey from a tree / Why I ain't goin' home on I-94 no more." Considering how much longer it takes to get home on the back roads, you've gotta wonder what this lady's done to him -- or his persona.
Nosek confirms that the lyrics are semi-autobiographical; however, it's the music that gets to the heart of the matter, driving a Cadillac of heartbreak through barrelhouse bayous and miles of soulful solos, including a toe-tappin' guitar interlude by Paterson and a finger-snappin' banjo feature by Flynn. Add some swingin' bass and piano, plus Nosek's signature crooning, and you'll be singing and shimmying along.
Nosek says the song was meant to be, since it came together in just one take.
"I introduced the song to the guys just five minutes before we recorded it. All I had to do was briefly explain how I thought each song 'should' sound, and those guys jumped in and did the rest," he said. "They've got an absolutely natural feel for just about any type of blues or roots music. I'm really fortunate to be surrounded by such talented musicians."
Give it a test drive and see what you think.
An MP3 of "I-94 Blues" is in the related downloads section at right. More music by the Cash Box Kings on their MySpace page. Catch the band live at a CD release party at the Crystal Corner Bar on Saturday, March 20.
MadTracks highlights and provides MP3s of songs performed by local musicians. All tracks here are provided with permission of the artist. If you are a musician based in the Madison metro area and are interested in sharing your work as a MadTrack, please send a message.