With a revamped lineup and an impending record release, Great American Taxi is back on the road.
“We’re really excited to get back to California to play on this run. The Bay Area and the Tahoe area, people have always been great to us around there,” keyboardist and vocalist Chad Staehly said.
Great American Taxi is Staehly, Jim Lewin (guitar, vocals), Brian Adams (bass, vocals), and recent additions Arthur Lee Land (guitar, banjo, vocals) and Will Trask (drums)
The Americana band went into a transitional phase three years ago with the departure of Vince Herman of Leftover Salmon fame. Herman decided to leave the band due to Leftover Salmon resuming full-time work.
“We kind of thought that might be the end of the band, but he encouraged us to keep the band going and a lot of promoters that we’ve worked with at various festivals around the country and other gigs really wanted to see the band keep playing, so we took notice of that,” Staehly said.
After trying out a few replacement candidates, Taxi settled on Land to step into Herman’s former role.
“(He’s) a great singer and writes a lot of songs with his wife, Carol,” Staehly said. “He brought a lot to the table, and comes from kind of a similar background as the rest of us, kind of having a foot in the jam world as well as the Americana world and kind of the classic Country world too. He’s an amazing Telecaster player as well.”
Great American Taxi also had its eye on Duane Trucks, brother of guitarist Derek Trucks. The drummer actually stepped into the studio with Taxi, recording percussion for the upcoming album, “Dr. Feelgood’s Travelling Medicine Show.” Unfortunately for Taxi, Duane Trucks was then invited to hit the road with Widespread Panic as a temporary fill-in that then became permanent. The band soon hit upon Colorado drummer Trask, who meshed well with the rest of the band and signed on.
“Dr. Feelgood’s Traveling Medicine Show,” which will be released on the day of the Tahoe show,” sees Great American Taxi headed in something of a new direction sonically, with a number of departures from the band’s prior efforts. The record was produced by Tim Carbone of Railroad Earth.
“Both Tim as the producer and we as a band kind of wanted to get a little bit further with some sonic creativity, so there’s certainly some instruments we’ve never used on a Taxi record before,” Staehly said. “There’s a mellotron on some stuff, and some other synth patches, just kind of some atmospheric stuff that we’ve never done with any of our records, which really added some kind of interesting layers to it.”
The lineup changes within the band also have made a mark on the group’s sound that is reflected in this album, Staehly noted.
“There’s a little more rock and roll I would say than maybe the twang that’s been on Taxi records in the past, and there’s really no bluegrass at all on this record,” he said. “We kind of really moved away from that, kind of due to the new personnel. Vince was the one that always brought the bluegrass element to the band, so we’ve lost that, but what we lost there we kind of gained in rock and roll and the electric side of things.”
The new album will be released into a market that has seen some dynamic shifts in the character of Americana music over recent decades.
“The Americana world has certainly shifted or has at least taken on more types of musicians,” Staehly said. “I think originally when American started out it was kind of a place where singer-songwriters went and was kind of the genre they started to fall under. It was a bit of an older audience too. Now I think there’s some younger players and bands, musicians that are creating that kind of roots music, and I see a movement towards a band sound more than a singer-songwriter situation.”
Great American Taxi is ready to carve out its own space within that world, with plans to resume regular tours, of which this California leg is one of the first.
“We’re certainly going to get back to some more regular touring, which the last couple years we’ve kind of been lying in wait,” Staehly said.
The band is working on its 2017 schedule, but will definitely be taking a number of trips up to Alaska, where the it has built a steady following. Staehly also has been in discussions with musician friend Todd Snider about collaborating with the well-known solo artist in some capacity. Snider and Staehly play together (along with Duane Trucks, Dave Schools, Neal Casal and Jesse Aycock) in the Hard Working Americans.
“He heard the new record and saw the new band and really loved it,” Staehly said. “We did some work with Todd years ago and made a couple records with him. He’s really been digging on doing the band thing after doing a bunch of Hard Working Americans shows and is kind of getting burnt out on the solo thing, so we are talking about doing a bunch of touring this year and maybe next year with Todd.”