Article Contributed by Victory Lap PR | Published on Thursday, August 17, 2023

TaxiCab Verses, a staggering collective of Athens, GA and Ghana based musicians, will re-release its one and only studio LP, Is What You Make It via the New West Records imprint Strolling Bones Records on October 20. Led by Athens’ own Jim Wilson, TaxiCab Verses was first formed in collaboration with Ghanaian outfit Kofi Atentenben and the Warriors over the course of three separate trips to West Africa. The resulting project, which debuted nearly a decade ago, combines traditional Ghanaian instrumentation––djembe, African congos, xylophone, and various bells, rattles and shakers––with a classic American lineup of electric guitar, bass, cello, drums, violin, and even saxophone. Originally released on a small run of 200 homespun CDs, Is What You Make It has remained a quiet phenomenon, though its impact continues to penetrate beyond what Wilson has ever thought imaginable. Today, Strolling Bones Records and TaxiCab Verses have shared a three minute animated video––produced by Lauren Tabak and Chuck Prophet and featuring the real-life voices of both Wilson and New West Records owner George Fontaine, Sr.––which chronicles the astounding story behind the collaboration, and its subsequent major label revival. Watch the video below, and listen to the first single,“Be Wise, Think Twice,” out now on all digital streaming platforms.

A veteran musician, songwriter, and dedicated member of the Athens music community, Wilson first made the trek to Accra, Ghana in 2008 to follow a girl. Inevitably, the relationship faltered, but his fascination with West African music and culture fueled two more back-to-back visits. On his daily excursions, Wilson documented the comically ambiguous sayings he would find on the streets—phrases like “Be Wise,” or “No Jesus No Life,” which adorned the backs of taxicabs. He quickly befriended a bevy of local musicians who welcomed his curiosity and graciously allowed him to record soundbites of their get togethers. In time, Wilson devised the idea to form a makeshift band with his Ghanaian compatriots. Emboldened by the support of his longtime friend, Patterson Hood (of Drive-By Truckers), he invited Accra’s Kofi Atentenben and the Warriors to join him in the studio.

“He always had a deep interest in the music of West Africa and although his trip was initially to do field recordings of local musicians there, it soon morphed into an all-encompassing project with Jim taking phrases he saw on the backs of the various taxicabs he rode in, then writing them down and turning them into the basis of a series of songs,” recalls Hood. “The results became the TaxiCab Verses.”

Upon his return to Athens, Wilson introduced the budding project to a number of trusted cohorts. Over several days, they set up shop at the beloved Flicker Theatre & Bar, where nearly 20 people––including Brad Morgan (Drive-By Truckers), John Fernandes (Elephant Six), Matt “Pistol” Stoessal (Faye Webster), and Strolling Bones label mate Jacob Morris––got mic’d up and began to play.

Hood adds, “It all somehow became a beautiful symphony of beats and grooves, creating a bed for Jim’s insightful and elusive lyrics and expressions; all captured so perfectly by Drew Vandenberg, who has since gone on to become one of the most respected and in-demand producers/engineers around.”

When all was said and done, TaxiCab Verses had blossomed into a stunning and colorful mosaic that only continues to ripen. Is What You Make It, the group’s singular studio effort, not only memorializes the unique amalgam of circumstances which led to the unlikely collaboration; it also bridges the gap between two very different, yet distinctly beautiful worlds. An exuberant collection of danceable numbers and emotive instrumental arrangements, Is What You Make It is a one of a kind heirloom; a relic of deep love, respect, and understanding that transcends time and place.

Reflecting on the project, Hood concludes, “So now I’m getting to revisit the finished album all of these years later, and, other than a little sadness at not being able to be there all along, I am so filled with love and pride for what Jim, Drew and all of those amazing musicians from two continents have created. Kudos to George Fontaine and the Strolling Bones Records folks for spotlighting this amazing chapter of Athens music history (and beyond) and finally making this record available for the whole world to hear.”

Is What You Make It from TaxiCab Verses will be available on DSP and vinyl for the first time ever on October 20, 2023. A highly-anticipated reunion show is slated for Athens’ 40 Watt Club on October 7 featuring TaxiCab Verses and contemporary Mandingue outfit Baba Commandant and the Mandigo Band. For tickets and more information, click here.