Sir Douglas Quintet, The
An Underappreciated American Voice
In sound-bite terms, Doug Sahm's legacy boils down to one wild garage-rock freak-out that became an unlikely hit ("She's About a Mover") and a few plaintive pop songs ("Mendocino" being the most well known) that later influenced such hit-makers as Jimmy Buffett. But as a founding member of the Texas Tornados, Sahm helped bring norteño (a rural style of music from the north of Mexico, often featuring accordion) to the U.S., and he ws a singer of such disarming earnestness that other singers have a hard time convincingly covering his songs. (Listen to the plaintive "Texas Me" here, and see if you can imagine another singer doing it.)
Singer and songwriter Sahm (1941–1999) was a Texas renaissance man, and one of the most musically significant cult artists of the rock era. This 1969 album, written when Sahm was living in Northern California and missing his home state, contains some of his most touching songs, and features the strongest lineup of the Sir Douglas Quintet. This band had to be good: Sahm had the singular ability to absorb disparate styles of music into the same song, and make them sound like they belong together. The raucous "She's About a Mover," which the group originally cut in 1966 and rerecorded here, is a typical amalgam: It's a rampaging boogaloo expressed through the keening innocence of '50s pop. Other tunes, including the oddly exuberant "Sunday Sunny Mill Valley Groove Day" that was left off the original LP, surround peppy rock or Tex-Mex beats with spacey psychedelic atmospheres—to amazing effect.
This album is the best way to first encounter Sahm, who counted Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson among his friends and fans. It shows Sahm at the moment when his ideas about music were rapidly coalescing, and his zanier lyrics were backed up by a band that could seemingly make the most ordinary tune sound like the kind of party you never want to leave.
Released: 1969, Smash/Mercury
Key Tracks: "Mendocino," "Texas Me," "She's About a Mover."
Catalog Choice: The Texas Tornados: The Texas Tornados.
Next Stop: Boz Scaggs: Boz Scaggs
After That: Bela Fleck and the Flecktones: Bela Fleck and the Flecktones.
Book Pages: 709–710