One Song. One Take. One Cab. Black Cab Sessions started in 2007 to provide audiences with an alternative to glossy promos, something that brought them closer to the magic and intimacy of a live performance. A mobile recording studio on wheels, complete with a constantly surprising and shifting vista.
Featuring musical legends such as Jack White, Mumford and Sons, the Roots and Brian Wilson and breaking the careers of up and comers like Lianne Le Havas and Michael Kiwanuka, the series captured the imagination of music lovers around the world for the original way it presented music.
With over 200 sessions and over 40 million organic online views, the meter is still running.
Black Cabs: USA is a six part broadcast series that takes the Black Cab Sessions format across the pond and explores the musical culture of six cities (New York, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Memphis, Athens, Nashville). Artists included in the series are Spank Rock, The Morning Benders, Washed Out, Caitlin Rose, Jack White, Those Darlins, Courtney Tidwell, Sharon Van Etten, Suzanne Vega, The Roots, Phosphorescent, John Legend, and more.
Black Cabs: USA was developed for broadcast by Just So Films with Love Live TV Ltd/Babel Networks Ltd and distributed globally by BBC Worldwide and Canal+ and in the UK by Channel 4
Part 1: Philadelphia
A city suffering from various problems is looking for new power in music. Folk singer Meg Baird sings in the back seat and takes us to a popular record store. The Morning Benders, Grandchildren, Reading Rainbow, Rain Machine, Tone Trump, Plastic Little and Spank Rock are also on the scene. We also go to rap battle.
Part 2: New Orleans
Hurricane Katrina was badly destroying New Orleans in 2005 and took nearly 2,000 lives. However, things are improving by the spirit of communion and the healing power of music. We meet several musicians of Treme series, including singer John Boutten, who performs at the back of a cab with guitarist Paul Sanchez. Blues singer John Thomas King takes us to his home destroyed by Katrina and sings a whiskey song. Also included is Trombone Short, his mentor Wolf, the Washboard Chaz, and the famous Rebirth Brazz Band and its member trumpeter Kermit Ruffins. Clarinetist Dr. Michael White gives a sample of his skills. We also learn about the Mardi Gras Indians and see what is popular hip hop bounce where bums spin wildly. DJ Jubilee and bounce star Big Freedia tell more.
Part 3: Athens
Athens, Georgia is known as hometown of the REM and B52 bands. There are more musicians per capita than any other city in the US. Many come to Athens to study at the university and play music. It is inexpensive to reside, live by odd jobs and play music. Freedom of creation is around. We meet with The Whigs and Dead Confederate, support bands of Kings of Leon and REM. Secret Squirrel is a rather original gig venue. Another legendary place is the Georgia Theater. (It burned in 2009 but was reopened in 2011.) We also hang out in the Orange Twin community. Venice’s Sinking, Quiet Hooves, Reptar and Washed Out are also performing on the back seat.
Part 4: Memphis
Cradle of Blues, mother of popular music. Elvis, B.B. King, Isaac Hayes, Stax Records… But is today’s Memphis any longer worth its old reputation? Filmmakers are lucky, finding still an original delta blues man, RL Boyce. We also meet Bosco Delrey, described as garbage can-Elvis. The Goner record store is the cornerstone of city’s music. One of the leading characters of Memphis rock scene is Alicja Trout. We pay a visit to the legendary Sun Studio. What wonders did the dollar bill on Johnny Cash’s guitar neck? A former Stax star, guitarist Skipp Pitts tells the story of Isaac Hayes Shaft riff. The Garage band The Oblivians is one of the Memphis hopes. We remember the singer Jeff Buckley who drowned in the Mississippi River. Cab riders include also the troubadour Harlan T Bobo, Caitlin Rose from Nashville and Justin Townes Earle. We visit in the open-minded Hi Tone Cafe, which Elvis eventually bought for his karate teacher. Finally, Gospel-blues artist Rev. John Wilkins sings and takes us to his church.
Part 5: Nashville
Only few cities name is a brand. Nashville, “Music City USA”, is the center of the commercial country music, but under the surface there is also a completely different music scene. The folkduo Kort and the rock band The Ettes are picked up by the cab. The Heypenny band takes us to concert place Robert’s. Also included are Those Darlins and Daniel Pujol, who show us their gig cellar. The Grimeys record store is the center of indie scene. The fine voiced Tristen with her band is also picked up for a ride. The culmination of the episode is when Jack White and Wanda Jackson, the first female rockabilly singer, sing a duet in the cab.
Part 6: New York
The final point of the cab ride is Big Apple, where we even find a country singer, leatherwork tinkering Johnny Corndawg. Guitarist Aaron Dessner of The National recommends the singer Sharon van Etten to take part. We make a tour in the creative Williamsburg area. The Acrylics band are Brooklyn locals. Suzanne Vega tells the story of Tom’s Diner and sings My Name is Luka. Rosanne Cash wonders what New York means to her. Multiple Grammy winner John Legend sits to perform in the back seat, as well as the legendary The Roots.