The Grateful Dead, a band whose legacy I respect, but whose musical appeal has long eluded me, have a record called Workingman's Dead. I can't think of any time in my lifetime when such a phrase has resonated more. The economy is experiencing, as Slayer might say, Seasons In The Abyss. It's bad out there and art reflects the time which reflects the art in some kind of cosmic circular fashion that can never be entirely explained. The economic hard times — and that's putting it mildly — are on the minds of many, and that includes songwriters the world over.
What can you do when there's nothing left to do? What do you do when they've taken everything there is to take? Morgan Freeman would tell you to get busy living or get busy dying. The Cash Box Kings take that next logical step; fuck it, let's dance.
"Default Boogie" is a rollicking middle finger to hard times. The tale Oscar Wilson tells is familiar to millions. What sets this apart is that it is more than a mere lament.
The Cash Box Kings find a groove and light a match. "Emperor" Billy Flynn plucks away on the mandolin and the band dances as the city burns to the ground.
I don't want to give you the wrong idea. The Kings aren't celebrating the bad times nor are they endorsing random acts of vandalism, instead tapping into the absurd euphoria and near-relief one often feels on the way down. It makes no sense but it's there, and that's the key "Default Boogie" is playing in.
They're also playing in the key of loud. Joe Nosek's harp screams, fusing with Barrelhouse Chuck's punishing piano and the glorious sounds of Flynn's mandolin. The music coaxes and dares you to dance while Wilson tells the story of losing it all.
The Kings have created a blues stew of contradiction and it's just one of the tasty contradictions on I-94 Blues.