Listening to the band’s second release, it is no wonder why Great American Taxi has become a favorite on the jam band circuit, and it’s not because they happen to be led by Leftover Salmon frontman Vince Herman (Although, I’m sure that doesn’t hurt.). These guys play with skill and an infectious energy that deserves to be heard. It’s an eclectic sound with elements of blues, bluegrass, boogie, gospel, honky tonk, rock, and some New Orleans flavor thrown in for good measure. They cover some bluegrass here (John Hartford’s “Get No Better” and Bill Monroe/Kenny Baker’s “Big Sandy River”), as well as Uncle Tupelo (“New Madrid”).
With lyrical references to the Grateful Dead (“American Beauty”) and Gram Parsons (title track) and comparisons to bands like Little Feat, Wilco, New Riders of the Purple Sage and the Byrds, country rock is probably the best tag to give them. The music never feels forced, and that relaxed vibe blends perfectly with Herman’s seasoned vocal. However, Herman doesn’t handle all the lead vocals here, which does make the album a little uneven. Chad Staehly and Jim Lewin’s lead vocal work is by no means bad, but Herman’s vocals always sound more at ease and confident – and just fun.
In an album or two, it may be a totally different story. It’s really about the music anyway, and there’s a lot to love here. The band (which consists of guitars, piano, bass, and drums) manages to make room for pedal steel, washboard, fiddle and even an impressive horn section in the mix. Staehly’s calls the band a “true democracy,” and I’m inclined to believe him. It never feels like it’s about one player more than another. There might be a guitar solo after the first chorus, but the piano may get some time after the second one. And anyone who loves hearing some great piano or Hammond B-3 will be well pleased. As big as the sound is, it all works, never feeling overdone. It’ll make your head bob, your feet tap – might even make you dance. Hopefully, you like that sort of thing.