Produced by East Nashville’s critically acclaimed singer-songwriter Todd Snider, Great American Taxi’s third album, Paradise Lost (released October 11, 2011) continues to occupy a top-ten Americana Airplay chart position. The new release is described as “a mixture of country, blues and rock blurred together,” notes keyboardist/singer and album executive producer Chad Staehly. “Taxi moves along the tradition of playing what is really electrified country folk music of the common man.”
“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,” Dennis Cook recently wrote in Jambase.
Great American Taxi is Vince Herman (vocals, guitar, mandolin), Chad Staehly (keys, vocals), Jim Lewin (guitar), Chris Sheldon (drums) and Brian Adams (bass). On Paradise Lost, 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” means to all of us, 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 release wraps up a trilogy, the band realized while working on Paradise. Their three albums loosely sketch out three periods in American history. People came to this country to carve out their Streets of Gold (GAT’s first release in 2007), got caught up in a bunch of Reckless Habits (2010) and have ended up with a sense of Paradise Lost.
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, who had no idea that GAT was in Oklahoma. 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.