Doug Sahm (and The Sir Douglas Quintet) -- see artist profile
In the years since his death (and for some time before...!) Doug Sahm's legend has grown to epic, fittingly Texan proportions, making him the patron saint of the longhair Lone Star alties. Deservedly so, as these early '70s Atlantic label recordings reveal him at his most diverse and most drugged out. The famous Doug Sahm And Band album of 1973, with luminaries such as David Bromberg, Dr. John, Bob Dylan, Flaco Jimenez and saxophonist David "Fathead" Newman all pitching in on an occasionally incandescent, frequently sideways-sliding and zonked-out mix of rootsy, funky blues and spacey country oldies, one of the ultimate cosmic cowboy records of its time, with, of course the FM underground hit "Is Anybody Going To San Antone" to kick things off. This set was sloppy, but in a nice, purposefully greasy, jam session way -- a bunch of roots music heavyweights getting together and letting the tape run. Paired with the '73 album on this 2-CD collection is the followup album, Texas Tornado, from 1975, and on each disc there's about an extra album's worth of outtakes and previously unreleased full-length versions of longer jams that got trimmed a bit to fit them on the album. Devoted Sahm fans will salivate at the chance to hear this stuff all in one place at one time... I gotta confess I find a lot of it to be fairly sludgy, although I suppose it's still pretty cool... Get it while you can, 'cause it's one of those limited edition Rhino Handmade dealies, and if it took the WEA folks this long to put this stuff out on CD, it's not likely to come back around anytime soon...
By all accounts, pioneering country rocker Doug Sahm was one of the hottest things on the Texas club circuit in the mid-1960s, when he fused the booming new garage rock sound with his own longtime love of country music... These fifteen tracks date from the years immediately before the Sir Douglas Quintet broke through to national fame, with Sahm, organist Augie Meyer and their bandmates working through a series of lively blues-drenched cover tunes. Not all of these tracks are killer-diller, but the ones that are are a lot of fun, and every track on here helps illuminate Sahm's remarkable career, and to underscore the depth of his musical roots. Nice.
From humble teenage beginnings as a poppy Texas garage rocker, Doug Sahm went on to form the Sir Douglas Quintet, a psychedelic roots band which brought Tex-Mex music to the ears of America. Brief commercial success gave way to cult fave status, and a lengthy solo career, full of aesthetic ups and downs. But my, my, my, this early stuff is so fine! Par for the course, the Rhino collection has the advantage of being both great, and readily available.
It's not very country, but the "Austin-tatious" Doug Sahm and his crew have a pretty good time playing funky blues-soul grooves and mixing a little roots and twang in around the edges. He's joined here by fiddler Link Davis. Jr., as well as drummer-producer Doug Clifford and bassist Stu Cook, both of the late, great swamp-garage band, Creedence Clearwater Revival, who help tap into Sahm's latent affinities for blues and roadhouse jazz, and channel his relentless eclecticism into a tighter, slicker rock sound. This disc leans on the heavy blues groove that pops up from time to time on other albums, and sticks with it through the length of an entire album; the results, while not as twangy as one might like, are still pretty solid. Good, funky, boogie-rock blues from the early '70s... a fine record for its times!
Ray Sawyer "Ray Sawyer" (Capitol, 1977)
(Produced by Ron Haffkine)
This is one of those only-in-the-Seventies, off-the-radar albums that has about a zillion-to-zero chance of ever being reissued... In this case it's not because it's a golden gem that the Nashville fatcats were too lame to appreciate, but really because this is a third-string production, with some Nashville studio dudes backing up the eye-patched, somewhat anonymous Sawyer, providing lush, oversized arrangements to his thin-voiced, almost whiny performance. There is some interesting stuff on here, though. mainly a handful of well-scuplted Hazel Smith songs that include the issue-oriented "Crazy Rosie" (about a teen pregnancy that results in the baby being murdered by its uptight, status-obsessed grandfather, which in turn drives the mother insane...) Equally over-the-top is "(One More Year Of) Daddy's Little Girl," wherein a small child is dying from an undisclosed terminal illness... and her daddy tries to enjoy her final days... The other primary songwriter here is someone named Joel Jaffe, who I've never heard of. Mostly Jaffe's stuff doesn't do much for me, though "Maybe I Can Use That In A Song" is a nice slow, sad shuffle. This ain't great, but it has its moments.
J. D. Souther "John David Souther" (Asylum, 1972)
J. D. Souther/Chris Hillman/Richie Furay "The Souther-Hillman-Furay Band" (Asylum, 1974)
J. D. Souther/Chris Hillman/Richie Furay "Trouble In Paradise" (Asylum, 1975)
J. D. Souther "Black Rose" (Asylum, 1976)
One of Linda Ronstadt's key songwriters and author of several smashes by the Eagles, songwriter John David Souther was an early part of LA's slick, studio-oriented country-rock scene. Of his records, thsi is one of the best... Most of the tracks on here are favorites in my repertoire, particularly the upbeat "The Moon Just Turned Blue" and the mopey, broken-love ballad, "If You Don't Want My Love," which is one of the rare, masterful triumphs of cheesy overproduction -- whiteboy soul packed with enthusiasm and immediacy. Oh, yeah -- the title track also hit the Top Ten Pop charts... That's why you used to see so many copies of it floating around on vinyl. Great record, still stands up.
J. D. Souther "Home By Dawn" (Warner Brothers, 1984)
A handy 12-song summation of the hippie-era recording career of songwriter Joe South, a twangy, soul-drenched pop genius who wrote a remarkable string of radio hits, ranging from Lynn Anderson's "Rose Garden," one of the defining moments in the 'Seventies countrypolitian scene, to the thunderous hard rock anthem, "Hush," which put the band Deep Purple on the map. South's own versions of these songs are markedly different than the hits -- his "Rose Garden" is cluttered and compact, while his "Hush" is wildly funky and fun. Also included here are "Games People Play," a top Pop hit for South himself in 1969, as well as "Walk A Mile In My Shoes," which was one of his few actual country entries, and several lesser well-known gems from his back catalog. It's more rock than country, but still funky and down home, and worth checking out to see how these great songs found their genesis.
Gary Stewart -- see artist profile
Hick Music Index