Smarten Up!

Taxi Chain

Northern Blues Records, 2004

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


What do you get when you cross a blues band, a bagpipe player, a roots-rock band, a heck of a tenor sax player, and a small record label that's not afraid to mix genres with wild abandon?

While it may seem the answer should be "I don't know, but it's crawling up your arm" (ba*DUM*bum), the actual answer is the debut CD from Toronto's Taxi Chain, a rather imperatively named disc called my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Smarten Up! Taxi Chain is not, however, an inexperienced band. Piper Grier Coppins has been a major force in piping for over twenty years; he began learning bagpipe at age seven, has won a silver medal in the World Piping Championships in Scotland, and was the formative force behind seminal Celtic fusion band Rare Air, whose six albums helped lay down the groundwork for the modern Celtic music renaissance. Combine this with the blues-laden sax of Jim Bish, the honky-tonk blues of Joe Burns' bass playing, and the Celtic-influenced rock guitar of Ayron Mortley, and you get…well…this. Taxi Chain, that is.

This isn't bad, not by a long shot. It takes a little getting used to, but Taxi Chain successfully syncretizes at least five distinct musical genres into something that is unique. The sole difficulty is whether that unique experimentation becomes a cure for cancer or something from the musical Isle Of Doctor Moreau. Most of the time, it's a cure for cancer. Tracks like "Memphis," "James Brown Ate My Bagpipe" (which is the early front-runner for the Daily Vault Unlikely Song Title Of The Year non-award), "Tandoori Mustache" and "Zimbobby" work, really well, and leave you tapping your toes and wondering if you can accessorize a kilt with a George Clinton hairdo. Unfortunately, a couple of tracks -- specifically the somewhat flat "Buck A Joy" -- don't work quite as well. That's not to say they're not without promise, but it does seem that Taxi Chain is more comfortable with their instrumentals than their vocal tracks. In truth I suspect that Taxi Chain will blow your doors off in a live show -- which, of course, I will never see. (We just managed to get Great Big Sea to admit Indianapolis exists. This is what passes for progress 'round these parts).

Taxi Chain is a work in progress, and Smarten Up! is a fine start. I look forward to seeing what these masters of the musical Cuisinart come up with next.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2004 Duke Egbert and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Northern Blues Records, and is used for informational purposes only.