The Black Cab Sessions: One Song, One Take, One Cab

Talk about an inti­mate venue. A group of friends in Eng­land have built an unlike­ly enter­tain­ment fran­chise, film­ing per­for­mances by the musi­cians they admire–in the back­seat of a Lon­don taxi­cab. The project is called “The Black Cab Ses­sions,” and the method is sim­ple: “One Song. One Take. One Cab.”

It start­ed in 2007 as some­thing of a lark–an impro­vised col­lab­o­ra­tion between mem­bers of a music pro­mo­tion com­pa­ny, Hid­den Fruit, and a film com­pa­ny, Just So Films–but the project soon took on a life of its own. Musi­cians respond­ed enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly, embrac­ing the whim­sy and chal­lenge of play­ing in such cramped, unsteady quar­ters. Now there are per­for­mances by about 100 artists on the Black Cab Ses­sions web­site.  Most of the musi­cians are young indie acts, but there are some vet­er­an per­form­ers as well, includ­ing Martha Wain­wright, Richard Thomp­son and Bri­an Wil­son. There are some famous groups, like Weez­er, Mum­ford and Sons, My Morn­ing Jack­et and (yes, of course!) Death Cab for Cutie, but many of the most inspired per­for­mances are by musi­cians you might not have heard about.

The music ranges widely–from Delta blues to beat­box, and from hip hop to Pagani­ni. One of the most pop­u­lar ses­sions isn’t music at all, in the strictest sense, but a mes­mer­iz­ing poet­ry per­for­mance by Ben­jamin Zepha­ni­ah. The one rule, accord­ing to Black Cab Ses­sions co-founder Jono Stevens, is that the film­mak­ers love the artists’ work. “Big or small,” Stevens said in a TV inter­view, “It real­ly does­n’t mat­ter. It’s about some­one we real­ly, real­ly feel pas­sion­ate about.”

There’s a lot to dis­cov­er on the Black Cab Ses­sions web­site. You can dive right into the col­lec­tion here, or start by sam­pling a few of our favorites, includ­ing Death Cab for Cutie singing No Sun­light above, and:

Lykke Li
Aman­da Palmer
Lang­horne Slim
Kil­la Kela
Sea­sick Steve
Beach House
Ben­jamin Zepha­ni­ah
Char­lie Siem
My Morn­ing Jack­et

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