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The Daily Hampshire Gazette 5/17/24

By STEVE PFARRER


Big Yellow Taxi, which comes to the Shea Theater in Montague on May 18 at 8 p.m., plays a range of music by the iconic singer-songwriter, a multiple Grammy winner who Rolling Stone has called “one of the greatest songwriters ever.”

The six-member Valley band, formed in the spring of 2021 following the worst of the pandemic, is made up of music pros whose resumes include gigging with a host of other names, both local and more far-flung: Trailer Park, King Radio, Dicey Riley, Art Neville, and Bo Diddley, among others.

What unites them, says bassist and guitarist Rich Cahillane, is their love for Mitchell’s varied repertoire, from her earlier folk and pop material to her later explorations of jazz and world music. There’s also the challenge involved in recreating music that Mitchell often played in unusual guitar tunings and time signatures.

“When (lead singer Teresa Lorenço) first started talking about playing Joni’s music, we were all like ‘Yes!’” said Cahillane, a longtime record producer in Leverett. He says when he was in his first band, during high school in Northampton in 1970, Mitchell’s music “was a big part of our playlist.”

The May 18 show will be centered on songs from “Court and Spark,” released a little over 50 years ago; it was Mitchell’s first move into jazz and jazz fusion and yielded some of her most successful singles.

“We’ve been building our repertoire,” Cahillane says. “We play some of the popular hits, but we’ve also been investigating some of her less well-known tracks … as musicians, it’s fascinating to dig in and see how a song is constructed.”

Rounding out Big Yellow Taxi (named for one of Mitchell’s most well-known tunes) are Joe FitzPatrick on drums, John Cabán on electric guitar, Robert Sherwood on keyboards, and Anne Patterson on percussion; the latter two provide most of the backup vocals.

Cahillane says the band stays pretty faithful to Mitchell’s arrangements but is also willing “to take liberties” on some songs, noting that Mitchell herself often varied her live performances from her records: “We feel we approach her songs in the same spirit she did.”

 



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