Various Artists

Keep Your Soul:
A Tribute to Doug Sahm

Vanguard

sahmIt’ll be 10 years ago in November that Sahm, 58, went to sleep at a New Mexico motel and never woke up. Since then, there have been enough releases to keep fans happy while preserving his legacy: “The Return of Wayne Douglas” (his final sessions, 2000); “The Songs of Sahm” (the Bottle Rockets’ covers disc, 2002); two limited-edition reissues — “The Genuine Texas Groover” (“Doug Sahm & Band” and “Texas Tornado” with more than an album’s worth of outtakes, 2003) and “The Complete Mercury Masters” (the Sir Douglas Quintet’s six original Mercury/Smash albums plus bonus material, 2005); and “Live From Austin, Texas” (a 1981 “Austin City Limits” performance, 2006). 

Now comes this long-awaited and well-executed tribute by friends, family and kindred spirits: “Shawn Sahm and I tried to do a tribute album right after Doug Sahm died in 1999, but it was just too soon,” writer-publicist Bill Bentley told Good New Music. “Ten years later we found a partner in Vanguard Records through David Katznelson and it all fell together.”

“I wanted to do a tribute to Pop … to help draw attention to the coming 10th anniversary of his passing,” Shawn said, “so I called Bill and David. David brought in Vanguard, the four of us busted our asses and here it is.”

Bentley and Katznelson are former Warner Bros. execs, and the majority of contributors were lined up by Bentley, whose Texas roots helped ensure the album’s requisite preponderance of Lone Star artists. “We asked each contributor for a song suggestion, and almost all got to do the one they wanted,” Bentley said. “A few needed suggestions, and in one case two people wanted to do the same song, so the artist who asked first got their first choice. Fair is fair!”

When Levon Helm’s schedule forced him to back out of his commitment to do “She’s About a Mover,” Ry Cooder came to the rescue with Little Willie G. (of Thee Midniters and later Malo fame). Cooder’s production and famous electric bottleneck turn the song into a raucous affair along the lines of his own legendary covers of Johnny Cash’s “Get Rhythm,” Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads” and Elvis Presley’s “All Shook Up.”

Other highlights are Alejandro Escovedo’s “Too Little Too Late,” undoubtedly the most reworked song with its multitracked violins creating an almost saxophone sound that joins Mick Ronson-like guitar for the chorus’ descending scale; Jimmie Vaughan’s take on “Why, Why, Why,” his unpretentious but soulful guitar a perfect match for the tune’s ’50s-style R&B leanings; and Charlie Sexton & the Mystic Knights of the Sea’s thrashfest remake of “You’re Doin’ It Too Hard.”

Shawn’s version of “Mendocino” is the other big hit bookending the set. He plays all the instruments himself (despite yelling out “Play it, Augie!” just before the organ solo), taking the essence of the original and kicking it up a notch. “It has a special meaning/vibe,” Shawn said. “All my pop’s songs do to me; they are scrapbooks of my childhood in a personal-type way. But on that tune, I just really wanted to visit that simple SDQ formula that starts with a simple, killer tune, and has those great rolling bass lines, and the Vox pumping, big vocal! Magic!”

Like Sir Doug’s output, “Keep Your Soul” is eclectic as hell, and reflects his affinity for pedal steel, fiddle and accordion. Here’s who sings what and the original sources (all are from SDQ releases unless otherwise indicated):

1. Little Willie G. – She’s About a Mover (1965 single; also on first album “Best of Sir Douglas Quintet” 1966)
2. Los Lobos – It Didn’t Even Bring Me Down (“Mendocino” 1969)
3. Alejandro Escovedo – Too Little Too Late (“Day Dreaming at Midnight” 1994)
4. Greg Dulli – You Was For Real (solo album “The Return of Wayne Douglas” 2000)
5. Dave Alvin – Dynamite Woman (1969 single; also on “Rough Edges” 1973)
6. Flaco Jimenez with the West Side Horns (feat. Augie Meyers on Vox organ and Nunie Rubio on vocal) – Ta Bueno Compadre (It’s OK Friend) (Texas Tornados “4 Aces” 1996)
7. Delbert McClinton – Texas Me (“Mendocino” 1969)
8. Terry Allen – I’m Not That Kat Anymore (1975 nonalbum B-side)
9. Jimmie Vaughan – Why, Why, Why (Doug Sahm and the Markays, 1960 single)
10. Charlie Sexton & the Mystic Knights of the Sea – You’re Doin’ It Too Hard (“Rough Edges” 1973)
11. The Gourds – Nuevo Laredo (“Together After Five” 1970)
12. Freda & the Firedogs – Be Real (“1 + 1 + 1 = 4” 1970)
13. Joe ‘King’ Carrasco & Texas Tornados (feat. Augie Meyers on Vox organ) – Adios Mexico (“Quintessence” 1983)
14. Shawn Sahm – Mendocino (1968 single; also on “Mendocino” 1969)gnm_end_bug

Total time: 46:46

External links
Doug Sahm tribute MySpace page
amazon.com
iTunes Store

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