Keep Your Soul: A Tribute to Doug Sahm
First Appeared in The Music Box, August 2009, Volume 16, #8
Written by John Metzger
Fri August 28, 2009, 06:15 AM CDT
Throughout the wide-sweeping landscape of America, let alone across the far-reaching expanses of the globe, Doug Sahm remains a relatively unknown figure. When he suffered a heart attack and died in late 1999, few folks outside his loyal band of fanatical followers took notice. A few years later, the Bottle Rockets attempted to draw attention to his career by honoring his passing with Songs of Sahm, but nothing seemed to change.
In Texas, however, Sahm has been a legend for a long time. In fact, virtually every Tex-Mex, blues, and rock ’n‘ roll artist to emerge from the Lone Star state since the mid-1960s has been touched, at least in part, by his work, whether it was his solo efforts or his output with both the Sir Douglas Quintet and the Texas Tornadoes. Over the years, Sahm’s music has continued to linger, bubbling beneath the surface of the vibrant Americana scene. As a result, his stature slowly but surely has grown, and now, nearly a decade after he left this mortal plane, he finally is getting his due.
Earlier this year, the SXSW Music Festival in Austin, Texas brought Sahm to the forefront of pop culture by holding a full-length concert in his honor, one which featured performances by Dave Alvin and Jimmie Vaughan as well as the surviving members of the Texas Tornadoes. The fact that the event preceded the issuance of Keep Your Soul: A Tribute to Doug Sahm by just a few days is not a coincidence. Nor is it surprising that most of the acts that paid their respects during the show also had leant their support to the endeavor. Regardless, skeptics among Sahm’s followers simply must set aside their skewed view of the obvious commercial implications in order to embrace the album. The outing is too good to miss, and it likely will succeed in its gambit to bring Sahm’s astoundingly variegated body of work to a wider audience.
The biggest disappointment about Keep Your Soul: A Tribute to Doug Sahm is, perhaps, that it doesn’t feature the kinds of top-selling artists that are necessary for significantly raising the profile of the endeavor. While there is no doubt that Los Lobos, Alejandro Escovedo, and Dave Alvin are well respected, they hardly can match the sales potential that Bob Dylan — whose latest set Together through Life also could be considered an ode of sorts to Sahm — would have brought to the project. In the end, though, it doesn’t matter because the results — which range from Charlie Sexton & the Mystic Knights of the Sea’s forceful, punk-infused rendition of You’re Doin’ It Too Hard to Delbert McClinton’s roadhouse romp through Texas Me to Greg Dulli’s anguish-filled You Was for Real — speak for themselves.
Sahm’s most familiar tunes — She’s a Mover and Mendocino — serve as the opening and closing numbers on Keep Your Soul: A Tribute to Doug Sahm. They also provide perfect examples of what to expect from the collection. Little Willie G. offers a raucously gritty rendition of the former tune, while Sahm’s son Shawn and frequent collaborator Augie Meyers unite to capture the easy-riding, good vibrations of the latter selection. Throughout Keep Your Soul: A Tribute to Doug Sahm, the music is replicated in a remarkably straightforward fashion — even as it showcases the full breadth of Sahm’s expansive stylistic approach. Because, however, each of the outfits that contributed to the effort essentially has the Tex-Mex king’s music racing through its bloodstream, the endeavor also is wonderfully effective. It won’t replace Sahm’s own recordings, but Keep Your Soul: A Tribute to Doug Sahm lovingly provides another point of entry to his canon. ½
Of Further Interest...
Keep Your Soul: A Tribute to Doug Sahm is available from
Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2009 The Music Box