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Smarten Up! by Taxi Chain

Taxi Chain has been an active part of the club scene in southern Ontario and the Toronto region for more than a decade. Grier Coppins, a veteran of Rare Air, a 1980s fusion group, formed the band in 1993. With three CDs under their belts, Taxi Chain is joining Fred Litwin’s successful blues label NorthernBlues Music.

The heartbeat of Taxi Chain is just good old-fashioned enthusiasm and originality. Is it a blues band? Definitely not! Will blues fans like the group? You betcha!

This "almost seventy" reviewer found Taxi Chain to be a delicious gumbo of musical genres including Celtic, folk, funk, jazz, country and rock. In a way, it is similar to another Toronto band of the early 1990s, called Jughead. Both groups experienced a fiercely loyal following and sold a lot of recordings "off the stage." That type of fan loyalty is a product of accessibility and flexibility. How could any fan dislike a leader who has the guts to bring a bagpipe onstage?

Listeners of my vintage may see a similarity to outfits like the Jim Kweskin Jugband who rewrapped old tunes with their own brand of "goodtime" music. Taxi Chain cranks it up a notch by performing all-original material. My favorites are "Cut Me a Key" and "Buck a Joy." The title tune is actually a traditional theme arranged by the band.

Smarten Up! is an enjoyable CD that can’t be placed in a pigeonhole.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Taxi Chain
  • CD Title: Smarten Up!
  • Genre: World Music
  • Year Released: 2004
  • Record Label: NorthernBlues Music
  • Tracks: Memphis; Smarten Up; James Brown Ate My Bagpipe; Cut Me a Key; Buck a Joy; Tandoori Mustache; It’s Your Birthday; Zimbobby; Memphis (reprise).
  • Musicians: Grier Coppins (tenor guitar, highland bagpipes, vocals); Ayron Mortley (guitars, tenor banjo, vocals, mandolin); Jim Bish (soprano, baritone, tenor saxes); Joe Burns(bass); Ron Rooth (drums) with special guests Mark Wessenger (keyboards, B3), Greg Monk (guitar, pedal steel), Josh Hicks (drums), Owen Pallet (fiddle, viola) and Pat Simmonds (fiddle).
  • Rating: Three Stars
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