Let me just say, “Dr. Feel Good’s Traveling Medicine Show” by Great American Taxi sounds just like what I would expect from such a band performing an album with such a name. This is not to say that the album is bad or bland—very far from it—but that this is a “feel good” show that brings together the best elements of what a traveling show might be. And it’s quite the adventure.
For this “show,” the core lineup of Great American Taxi consists of Chad Staehly on keyboards and vocals, Jim Lewin on guitar and vocals, Brian Adams plucking the bass and offering vocals, and newest member Arthur Lee Land contributing with guitar, banjo, and his own vocals. On “Dr. Feel Good’s Traveling Medicine Show” this core lineup was joined by Duane Trucks (of Hard Working Americans and Widespread Panic fame) on the drums and Tim Carbone of Railroad Earth as producer. This mix of world-class musicians offer a truly American show that encompasses the best of what improvisational music brings to the table.
Great American Taxi begins the show by traveling into the upbeat rock of openers “We Can Run” and “Out on the Town.” These two songs showcase the ability of the band to really bring a groove-centered, Americana rock to the forefront. “Sunshiny Days” follows, with an opening guitar and organ reminiscent of The Band, it is a mid-tempo number that showcases Great American Taxi’s ability to write tightly, yet in a way that is open for more musical conversation. “All the Angels” takes a more Americana route, featuring a stripped-down drum set with a strong banjo line and an upright bass. The song “Home” continues to show Great American Taxi’s ability to thrive in a stripped-down setting, with excellent songwriting that encompasses a variety of instruments. It is one of the more beautiful tracks on the record. “Louie Town” continues the mid-tempo nature of the previous songs, but returns to more electric instrumentation. “Everybody” returns to the more up-tempo groove of the first two tracks but eschews being a full out rock song to embrace some more pop elements, complete with “Du Du Du Du”’s. “Dr. Feel Good’s Traveling Medicine Show” follows next and it is something completely different, like an Americana version of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” The last two songs are “Like There’s No Yesterday” and “Mother Lode.” The former starts out like a good-old fashioned drinking song and then turns into a strong pop-rock song, complete with a nice sing-along chorus. The latter ends the album on a down-tempo note, acting as the only real, true ballad on the album. But it is an appropriate closer as one could imagine everybody at “Dr. Feel Good’s Traveling Show” swaying together while singing this song and then walking out into the night, feeling great at the show they were just part of.
Now, it may seem that this is a haphazard album. It is not. It flows very nicely, especially for a band that is known more for its improvisational acumen. The elements all work together to create an album that, to this reviewer, is reminiscent of what The Band may sound like today. Great American Taxi is able to work a number of elements together to create a musical whole. And it truly is a very good whole that anyone interested in Americana or rock music should not only enjoy, but pursue.