Great American Taxi’s sophomore studio effort, Reckless Habits, finds the band barrel-assing it down the Headneck Highway as only righteous cosmic cowboys can. If their 2007 debut Streets of Gold laid the groundwork for the Taxi’s self-proclaimed “Americana Without Borders” sound, Reckless Habits uses that groundwork as a launch pad and blasts off into gonzograss-ragtime-honkytonk-country-furry-freak-rock territory – grinning all the way.
Producer Tim Carbone (yep – the same TC of Railroad Earth and the about-to-break-wide-open Contribution [you heard it here first]) plays no small part in what you experience on Reckless Habits. Carbone’s sonic seasonings (everything from New Orleans-style horns to shake-the-light-fixtures gospel singers to a little bit of his own tasty fiddle playing) manage to make the 14-track album sound like an audio Zap Comix – something like George Martin meets The New Riders of the Purple Sage as drawn by R. Crumb. Take the rollicking album opener “One Of These Days”, for instance: things start off with a little bit of sweet roll-yer-pantslegs-up-and-dangle-yer-feet-in-the-river acoustic guitar and before you know it, you’re stivvering down Bourbon Street arm-in-arm with the Peak to Freak Horns thinking, “Pants? Who needs pants? AHHHHHHWOOOOOOOOOOOOOH!”
Founding Taxi drivers Vince Herman (guitars/vocals) and Chad Staehly (keys/vocals) are joined on Reckless Habits by guitarist Jim Lewin, bassist Edwin Huritz, and drummer Chris Sheldon, with the result a band of players who know how to keep it tight while keeping it loose at the same time. Besides the aforementioned horns and Black Swan Singers, MVP of the album has to go to guest Barry Sless for his contributions on pedal steel and electric guitar. Sless knows how and when to get freaky, for sure. Check out Taxi’s cover of the Bill Monroe/Kenny Baker classic “Big Sandy River”: after everyone (including Carbone) tears off a chunk for themselves, Sless lets loose with an eye-spinning run along the neck of the pedal steel, then turns around and makes the thing sound like a frigging steel drum band – absolutely no shit.
Moods swing from the “Subterranean Homesick Blues”-like charge of “New Millenium Blues” to the Flying Burritos-flavored title song. “American Beauty” evolves into a beautiful jam before it’s over with guitars and keys swooping and chasing each other while Hurwitz and Sheldon provide the traction for the beast. There are covers (Uncle Tupelo’s “New Madrid” and a big ol’ goofy grinning version of John Hartford’s “Get No Better”); there’s a little R&B testifying (the Black Swan Singers part the swamp mists with their soaring background vocals on “Cold Lonely Town”); and there are moments that combine a little Western Swing with early Allman Brothers (“Albuquerque, NM”, for instance). Plus, there’s a prime candidate for 2010’s Sing-Along Of The Year: “Fuzzy Little Hippy Girl”, a tribute to, well … what do you think? (If you’re not harmonizing with Vince Herman by the second chorus, there’s something wrong with you – absolutely no shit again.)
Seriously – get into the Taxi. All in all, Reckless Habits is a wicked ride.