Great American Taxi transports listeners to the musical intersection of jam band, blues, rock and Americana on their new album, Dr. Feelgood’s Traveling Medicine Show. While it is said that “laughter is the best medicine,” good music is surely comes in a close second. For their latest release, Great American Taxi continue to show that, whoever has their hand on the wheel, the direction and destination stay the same.
The twists and turns in the band’s lineup seem to have finally settled into a cohesive unit that is delivering a sound far greater than the sum of its parts. Not to say that newly minted front man Arthur Lee Land, guitarist Jim Lewin, keyboard player Chad Staehly and company ever strayed from the Gram Parsons spirit the band was forged to follow.
“We Can Run” opens things up with a blast of honky-tonk blues that serves as a fitting introduction for new vocalist Land. There are similarities to former vocalist Todd Snider in tone, but similarities are just on the surface level. Songs like “Out On The Town” quickly help illuminate the more earnest direction of the band. It’s easy to see a more whimsical take on the tune with previous line-ups but the more heart felt approach presented here is impressive and distinct.
The slow burn blues of “Sunshiny Days” shows a understanding of build and release that lets Land and Lewin trade some powerful licks over booming bass and drums. A groovy banjo intro to “All The Angels” is placed perfectly on the track listing, lifting the slowly darkening mood instantly. The religious iconography in the lyrics serve as sparse cover for the universal advice the band is doling out on the track. “Home” keeps the expansive vibe going with jazz brush drumming and banjo counterpointing lilting pedal steel guitar and fiddle that perfectly underscore the melancholy spirit of the tune.
The title track, “Dr. Feelgood’s Traveling Medicine Show,” comes on like a fever dream version of old-timey carnival music with a psychedelic twist for good measure. The wry songwriting on the album reaches a peak on “Like There’s No Yesterday” giving Jimmy Buffett some unexpected competition in the “Looking back on a life from a pirate’s perspective” sub-genre. Closing out the album, “Mother Lode” unwinds in a flat spiral, evoking a hopeful but weary look at the future.
Over the course of Dr.Feelgood’s Traveling Medicine Show, Great American Taxi shows great comfort in a wide variety of song styles and sonic dimensions. Though past iterations have seemed to focus more on the person at the front of the stage this is the first effort that feels like a true group effort. If GAT can continue with this level sanctified mix of righteous music and insightful lyrical content, then let’s hope this configuration is here to stay.