Railroad Earth with Great American Taxi
September 19, 2008
The first of a two-night jamgrass extravaganza in Boulder proved to be a scorcher as an anxious crowd, ready to be entertained at the now-famous Fox on the hill, eagerly awaited Friday’s sold-out show featuring Railroad Earth and Great American Taxi.
Colorado’s own Great American Taxi, fronted by none other than Vince Herman of Leftover Salmon fame, rose mightily to the occasion. With its signature blend of bluegrass, jam and Americana music the Taxi sped straight into the heart of the great American night with the energetic audience along for the ride.
The band hit rock solid versions of some of its standards, including Herman’s stirring save-the-mountains anthem "Appalachian Soul," a hot version of keyboardist Chad Staehly’s New Riders-esque jam vehicle "Straw Man," the rambling ska improvisations of drummer Jake Coffin’s "Kali," a few Leftover Salmon nuggets (including "Good Night to Boogie" and "Ellie Mannette") and a huge crowd sing-along to "Wagon Wheel," a tune credited to Bob Dylan, made prominent by Old Crow Medicine Show and which featured Herman’s 14-year-old son, Silas, on acoustic guitar.
GAT capped off its opening set with a rousing version of one of its more recent creations, "Whiskey." The band plans to head into the studio later this year to record its second album, aided by some new personnel, including drummer Chris Sheldon (of Phix renown) and hopefully a visit from former Grateful Dead rhythm devil Bill Kreutzman, who joined the band for a blistering festival set in Colorado earlier this summer.
Having encompassed some of the Front Range’s top musical talent over the past few years (including singer/songwriter Reed Foehl, multi-talented stringman Jefferson Hamer and drummer extraordinaire Jake Coffin), Great American Taxi continues to evolve into one of the pre-eminent roots bands in the country. And shows like this keep the fans coming back.
The evening’s headliner, Railroad Earth, did not disappoint. The group was joined by a talented host of backup talent, including Dominic Lalli (The Motet) on tenor sax and the very impressive crooning of Denver’s Black Swan Singers, comprised of Sheryl Renne, Shelly Lindsey and Coco Brown.
The band, propelled by the virtuoso fiddling of Tim Carbone and the evocative (sounding like a young Bob Dylan at times) vocals of Todd Sheaffer, produced a lush and nimble sound that moved fluidly between grass, gospel and folk-pop.
The band featured some songs from its latest release, Amen Corner, including a pleasing version of "Right in Tune" and a very powerful gospel-infused take of "Hard Livin’" to end the first set on a dizzyingly high note.
Set two commenced with "Like a Buddah" then burrowed briefly into bluegrass territory, with a fun version of "Little Rabbit," which was followed by the group’s bona fide acoustic folk-tinged crowd pleaser, "Bird in a House." This favorite provided yet another big sing-along for the evening. The set also took in hot versions of "Lovin’ You," "Happy Dance" and "Rainsong."
Railroad Earth’s ability to take simple progressions and melodies to soaring heights was well appreciated by the full house at the Fox. By the time they signed off with a smoking "New Lee Highway Blues" > "Fiddlee" it felt like Boulder had officially added the act to its list of rootsy favorites.