Great American Taxi is Vince Herman (vocals, guitar, mandolin), Chad Staehly (keys, vocals), Jim Lewin (guitar, vocals), Chris Sheldon (drums, vocals) and Brian Adams (bass, vocals). On their latest release, Paradise Lost (produced by Todd Snider), the band enlisted master folk musicians Tim O'Brien, Barry Sless, and Elizabeth Cook to tackle songs about working class, blue-collar issues while maintaining Taxi's signature upbeat, country-, bluegrass-, rock-infused, Americana-without-borders feel.
"I believe in the power of music and songs that can generate the energy to do something," explains Herman. "Politics should be in music; everything's politics, especially music. Songwriting can draw attention to appropriate issues of our times." The band holds no bars in confronting current issues like mountaintop removal, nuclear energy, poor economic conditions, or a soldier returning home from war.
"Taxi's latest release has shed the jamming and gone for the throat with focused song writing and tight musical arrangements," adds Staehly. "The album combines 'folky' elements with straight ahead bluegrass that was propelled by Tim O'Brien playing fiddle, banjo and mandolin on several numbers mixed with equal parts rock 'n' roll — think early-'70s country-rock Rolling Stones."
The band crafted a batch of 12 songs that follow a script of sorts, focusing on America in the new millennium. The theme started to develop in 2010 when they spent time in Nashville. Later that year, while on tour with Snider in Denver, lightning struck: Snider and the band decided to work together to create Taxi's third album, which was to explore what "paradise lost" meant to all of them, individually and collectively. Paradise Lost takes on issues such as loss of childhood, loss of innocence, lost loved ones — even the loss of the record industry.
The lead track, "Poor House," came to them in a peculiar way while the band was playing in Oklahoma City. They received a call from their songwriting friend Benny Galloway (local Boulder songwrtier extraordinnaire), who had no idea that GAT was in Oklahoma City at the time. By coincidence, he called to say he was driving through Woody Guthrie's hometown of Okemah, OK, knowing that the Taxi boys were big Guthrie fans. Galloway showed up about an hour before the show and ran "Poor House" by them as a potential song they could play together that night. Galloway obliged the band's desire to include the track and dropped off a demo version weeks later while all were back home in Colorado.
When work began on Paradise Lost, Snider wanted the lyrics first before anything else. All five band-members contributed. Snider helped them edit and whittle down the catalog of songs to about fifteen tunes before they shored up the music and headed for East Nashville in April of 2011. There they arrived at Eric McConnell's house (where Snider cut his acclaimed release East Nashville Skyline and where Jack White produced Loretta Lynn's Grammy-award winning release Van Lear Rose).
Staehly recalls, "The house definitely has a certain vibe to it, maybe it's all the old analog gear or McConnell's approach, but this new album from Taxi hearkens to the sounds of both of those albums. It's a bit raw with all kinds of warmth and vibe to it that helps bring home these workingman songs. Paradise Lost has an everyman's aesthetic to it that evokes a reminder of how things ought to be for those in search of the elusive American Dream."
Taxi has been performing many dates over the past couple of years as backup band for Snider so it's no surprise to see his name crop up on the production credits. He makes an appearance on lead vocals, harp and some back-up vocals.
Great American Taxi remains inspired by roots rockers like The Band, The Jayhawks, Gram Parsons, and New Riders of the Purple Sage, wearing these influences on their collective sleeve but carving out new territory along the way both lyrically and musically.
Great American Taxi's sophomore effort, Reckless Habits, garnered critical attention on the Americana music scene, topped at #12 on the Americana Music Association's radio chart; it remained in the top 25 for more than two months. Habits sat atop the Colorado radio chart for more than two months and remained in the top 25 for more than a year. The album found the band moving "confidently between touching base on their first-generation influences and building songs with unmistakably individual presence," noted the Boulder Weekly.
Taxi has spent the last seven years touring America non-stop, and their astute observations on the American condition resound with a truth and values ethos that all can relate to. After all, these guys have seen a lot, having played more than 750 shows in their short history together and traveling close to 500,000 miles in that time, spreading a brand of music that they affectionately refer to as "Americana without borders."
The 12 tracks on Paradise Lost include a couple of reflective ballads, a sing-along or two, and some rockers that will make you want to get up and shake your money-maker. Great American Taxi, along with their friend and producer Todd Snider, deliver a collection of what Staehly calls "electric folk music for our times." Paradise Lost is an ode to the American Dream, often times forsaken but always there to be rediscovered."
"It's hard to imagine someone not liking Great American Taxi. In their bone structure and general jiggle, GAT is a modern equivalent to Little Feat, Los Lobos and the Grateful Dead – i.e. bonhomie rich, barroom ready rockers with a healthy facility with twangy stuff, all anchored to quality songwriting, playing and presentation. The Taxi is the whole dang package for someone looking to lift their heels whilst wetting their whistle and getting their head and heart fed, too. In short, Great American Taxi is a speakeasy where all are welcome..."--Dennis Cook (editor), Jambands.com.