Great American Taxi and The Wilderness of Manitoba reviews

Thanks for checking in at Fervor Coulee. We are in the middle of a fabulous summer in Alberta and that means lots of music to be seen and heard. Deana and I took in the launch of The Matchbox Theatre’s concert series on Tuesday evening. Two sets of performances were of interest, especially that of Ron Rault and Crawdad (!) as part of the Front Porch Blues Revue. For me the big news learned was that Slaid Cleaves is making his first (as far as I know) Red Deer appearance on Oct. 29! I can’t wait for that show.

Great American Taxi appears in town next Friday as part of the Central Music Festival and I examine their recent release Reckless Habits. Also, The Wilderness of Manitoba’s new one is reviewed.

Listen to some music. Buy some music. Enjoy the weekend.

Again, I do thank you for checking in at Fervor Coulee. Let me know if you need anything. Cheers, Donald

Roots Music Column, originally published August 6, 2010 in the Red Deer Advocate

Great American Taxi Reckless Habits Thirty Tigers

Since jam-band staple Leftover Salmon went on an extended break, Vince Herman has concentrated his efforts toward Great American Taxi. They appear next Friday at the Central Music Festival.

Quite simply, Reckless Habits is an incredible album on which the band fuses the breezy experimentation of the jam band scene with concise songwriting that doesn’t overlook the importance of melody, hooks, and lyrics.

Reckless Habits balances country-rock and bluegrass influences within a sweeping soundscape that recalls the openness of the late-‘60s. Sometimes the music swirls and twirls, and at other times a slow R&B groove bring things back to reality. It is a percussion heavy album, one that is further enlivened by various keyboards including Hammond B-3 and a powerful guitar assault that doesn’t overwhelm the vocalists.

It may be the only album that includes covers of not only Uncle Tupelo and John Hartford, but Bill Monroe and Kenny Baker. The original material is very strong, with the Gram Parsons tale “Reckless Habits” and “One of These Days” instantly memorable. The Parsons mention is appropriate as Great American Taxi has more than a little of the Flying Burritos sound and spirit flowing through their veins. Similarly, “American Beauty” pays homage to influence of The Grateful Dead.

“The New Millennium Blues” is another keeper, touching the challenges faced in times of economic instability- “Mama’s got two jobs, Daddy’s got three, trying to raise enough bread just to make ends meet.”

By necessity not as expansive as their live shows- recordings of which are legitimately available for free download- Reckless Habits serves as an excellent calling card, showcasing especially well Chad Staehly’s expressive vocals.

Clocking in at a very substantial hour, Reckless Habits is that rare album that causes one to yearn for more immediately after listening; the repeat button will get a workout.

The Wilderness of Manitoba When You Left the Fire Vérité

Toronto’s The Wilderness of Manitoba has emerged as one of the nation’s most appealing and challenging young bands within the nu-folk movement.

While their debut EP of last year was deeply engaging, When You Left the Fire demonstrates that the group has progressed into an entirely more challenging realm. Having been compared to everyone from The Low Anthem to Bon Iver, this quintet is a contemporary The Mamas and The Papas (if Nick Drake was harmonizing with Denny Doherty and Cass Elliot) with lush four-part vocal arrangements weaving through a sparse ‘just right’ blanket of instrumentation.

The lyrics are quite poetic and a bit troubling, layering yearning and loneliness within dreams of regret, geography, and mystery. Gentle and soothing, just when things hint at predictable sedateness something new is introduced. The group continually keeps listeners guessing while maintaining a consistent, overarching balance of intimate, musical beauty. 

Individual songs such as “November” and “In the Family” work in isolation, but the near hour-long album is best embraced as a complete entity.

Also in rotation: Matt Urmy- Sweet Lonesome; Steven L. Smith- Outside of Tupelo; Ruth Moody- The Garden; Tom Russell- Cowboy’d All to Hell; Danielle Doyle- The Cartographer’s Wife

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