Taxi Chain – Smarten Up!

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SKU: NorthernBlues 19 Categories: , Tag:


Track Listing:
1. Memphis - 5:57   2. Smarten Up! - 4:16   3. James Brown Ate My Bagpipe - 3:35   4. Cut Me a Key - 3:19   5. Buck a Joy - 5:56   6. Tandoori Mustache - 4:28   7. It's Your Birthday - 5:15   8. Zimbobby - 4:51   9. Memphis [reprise] - 1:55 

Grier Coppins (bagpipes, tin whistle, vocal, guitar) , Ayron Mortley (guitar) , Jim Bish (saxes, backing vocals) , Joe Burns (bass) , Ron Rooth (drums) , Mark Wessenger (B3 organ) , Greg Monk (guitars) , Josh Hicks (drums) , Owen Pallet (fiddle) , Pat Simmonds (fiddle)


1. - Brett Lemke
Taxi Chain is tasteful and technically apt country rock incorporating bagpipes and blues simplicity. The troupe from Toronto, Ontario has both a honky-tonk twang and a drunken swagger, and produces nine interesting tracks that move between ambient surf-rock fuzztones and acoustic fusion experimentation. The vocals are kind of tortured and nasal, speaking through in a lackluster lounge manner while sticking to an acoustic rhythm section. Taxi Chain also includes one or two traditional European instrumental jams to mix things up a bit, and show their musical diversity. The 2004 disc has been released on the Northernblues Music label, and features the funky additions of a tenor saxophone, and an acoustic bass tapping time to a laid back drum roll. The disc "Smarten Up" features Grier Coppins on Bagpipes, Ayron Mortley on guitar, Jim Bish on saxophone, Joe Burns on bass and Ron Rooth on drums. Catch them live in Toronto to see the show and understand how even bagpipes get the blues. 

2. AllMusic - Chris Nickson
You could call Taxi Chain the quintessential bar band. There's no doubt that their music — which skips freely from soul to Celtic, R&B to a kind of jazzy funk with a touch of swing along the way — would go down well in a club. It's translating that to a studio record that's the problem. It's typified by the opening cut, "Memphis." The song itself is fine, a pastiche of Memphis soul. But in the studio, at least, the rhythm section drags, which stops the whole thing from working (and the use of a chorus effect on the guitar is annoying, too). "Cut Me a Key" suffers from a similar problem, while the title track, a Celtic pastiche, is pleasant, but never outstanding. Maybe it comes with the territory, being Jacks of all musical trades, but they master none. Having the Highland pipes is fine and makes them stand out, but Grier Coppins isn't a master piper, by any means. "Zimbobby" is probably meant as a tribute to Dylan, but its reach for jazz and the jam falls short. In short, there's nothing wrong with the album — it's perfectly listenable — but at the same time, everything is wrong. It might have been best to have captured the band live, where the energy was flowing with a crowd, and they were looser, because the stiffness on this is so palpable that you can feel the tension. A good massage and a live outing next time, maybe?

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