Sunday, November 7, 2010

Doug Sahm - The Genuine Texas Groover (Rhino Handmade, 2003)

It's a bit surprising that someone would give Doug Sahm's less celebrated Atlantic albums the deluxe reissue treatment. Nonetheless, The Genuine Texas Groover combines the two 1973 releases Doug Sahm and Band and Texas Tornado (as by the Sir Douglas Band) along with a slew of bonus tracks from the recording sessions in New York City and San Francisco. Hardcore Sir Douglas fans, of course, rally around these LPs - perhaps excessively so, but critics have generally been much less kind to them, with lukewarm-to-dismissive reviews in The Rolling Stone Record Guide from 1979 and the Rolling Stone Album Guide from 1992 being typical. In terms of artistic merit, the truth lies somewhere between such divergent assessments. While I don't think that these efforts are as good as my personal favorites, Mendocino and Together After Five, they are definitely worthwhile listening experiences for Doug Sahm completists who are curious about the musician's excursions into country and big band sounds.


According to the extensive booklet notes, Doug Sahm and Band was essentially a loosely-organized super session produced by industry veteran Jerry Wexler that included luminaries such as Dr. John on keyboards, Bob Dylan on various instruments and vocals, David Bromberg on dobro, Flaco Jimenez on accordion, David "Fathead" Newman and Wayne Jackson on horns, and old standby Augie Meyers on piano and guitar. Although Gilbert Shelton's cover artwork suggests great things, I still can't help but help but feel that this album's sum is a bit less than its parts. Not to say that it's bad, because it's definitely not that. But for those of us who have a preference for Sahm's more rockin' side, a lot of these performances may come off as overly laid back. However, if you're in the mood for something mellow and rootsy, Doug Sahm and Band could be just the thing you're looking for. "(Is Anybody Going To) San Antone" (which features Doug on fiddle), "It's Gonna Be Easy," "Faded Love," "Blues Stay Away from Me," and "Me and Paul" (Willie Nelson's response to "Me and Bobby McGee"?) are the LP's most overtly country moments, with the orchestrated blues of "Your Friends" and "Papa Ain't Salty" respectively being nods to Bobby "Blue" Bland and T-Bone Walker. Sahm's own "Dealer's Blues" is a self-composed example of this style. "Poison Love" receives a nice Tex-Mex-flavored interpretation due in no small part to Jimenez's expert contributions and Andy Statman's fine mandolin work, while some people consider the version of Dylan's "Wallflower" included here to be definitive. The concluding songs, both from Doug's songbook, are pretty good. "Don't Turn Around" is an appealingly steady-rolling number, and "I Get Off" rocks harder than anything else on this LP. The bonus tracks consist of previously unreleased material that is mostly in the same bag as the performances chosen for the final product. Jimmie Rodgers' "Never No Mo' Blues," Jack Clement's "Miller's Cave," Hank Williams, Sr.'s "On the Banks of the Old Pontchartrain" and "Hey, Good Lookin'," the standard "Columbus Stockade," and Joey Longoria's "The Blues Walked on In" continue the country explorations - for the most part successfully - with Charlie Owens' pedal steel solos on the last two titles being the highlights of the bunch. "Sometimes," "Please Mr. Sand Man," and "Chicken and the Bop" find Sahm and Band attempting 1950s-styled big band R&B material with similar results. The Sahm original "Goodbye San Francisco, Hello Amsterdam" was just a few finishing touches away from being something that had the potential to be a successful single.


I have to give the edge to Texas Tornado as the better album of the two. Consisting of material recorded during the sessions for Doug Sahm and Band as well as additional time spent in the studio afterward, this title is similarly eclectic but seems to possess just a bit more energy than its predecessor. The opener, "San Francisco FM Blues," a funky and horn-heavy observation on post-1960s Haight-Ashbury, gets things off to a great start. "Someday" and "Blue Horizon" continue Doug's experiments with large-ensemble arrangements, and you'll like these tunes if that sort of music is your cup of tea. His woozy rendition of Bobby Charles' "Tennessee Blues" may be just a little too soporific for its own good. There aren't too many white guys who can successfully cover material originally performed by the aforementioned Bobby Bland, but the subject of this review may be the best of a select group as convincingly demonstrated on "Ain't That Loving You." The next three songs - "Texas Tornado," "Juan Mendoza," and "Chicano" - hearken back to the old Quintet of the 1960s in spirit if not in sound. These are the type of creations that could only emerge from the singular mind of Doug Sahm what with their diverse multicultural and uniquely Texan musical influences. The same goes for the superb "Hard Way" and even better "Nitty Gritty," especially since they feature a return of Augie Meyers' signature reedy organ. Even though "I'll Be There" is not an original, it's still a fine performance and helps make the second side of this album among the most compelling group of songs that the man has ever recorded. This disc's bonus tracks include more twangy numbers that never saw commercial release such as "From a Jack to a King," "Leave Me Alone with the Blues," and "I'm Just Tired of Getting Burned" as well as an alternate take of "Blue Horizon," the backing track of "Nitty Gritty," and the full-length versions of "Your Friends" and "Papa Ain't Salty," which both provide fascinating glimpses of how Sahm worked in the studio. "Sometimes You've Got to Stop Chasing Rainbows" is another one of those songs performed in a style reminiscent of the original Sir Douglas Quintet. The unfinished "Bobby's Blues" serves as another example of an attempt at an uptown blues shuffle in the manner of T-Bone Walker or Bobby Bland and provides a further illustration of Sahm's typical modus operandi during recording sessions.


Doug Sahm and Band

1. (Is Anybody Going to) San Antone
2. It's Gonna Be Easy
3. Your Friends (album version)
4. Poison Love
5. Wallflower
6. Dealer's Blues
7. Faded Love
8. Blues Stay Away from Me
9. Papa Ain't Salty (album version)
10. Me and Paul
11. Don't Turn Around
12. I Get Off
13. Goodbye San Francisco, Hello Amsterdam*
14. Never No Mo' Blues*
15. Sometimes*
16. Miller's Cave*
17. On the Banks of the Old Pontchartrain*
18. Hey, Good Lookin'*
19. Please Mr. Sand Man*
20. Chicken and the Bop*
21. Columbus Stockade*
22. The Blues Walked on In*

The Sir Douglas Band - Texas Tornado
1. San Francisco FM Blues
2. Someday
3. Blue Horizon
4. Tennessee Blues
5. Ain't That Loving You
6. Texas Tornado
7. Juan Mendoza
8. Chicano
9. I'll Be There
10. Hard Way
11. Nitty Gritty
12. From a Jack to a King*
13. Leave Me Alone with the Blues*
14. I'm Just Tired of Getting Burned (alternate version)*
15. Blue Horizon (take 5)*
16. Nitty Gritty (backing track)*
17. Sometimes You've Got to Stop Chasing Rainbows*
18. Bobby's Blues*
19. Your Friends (full-length version)*
20. Papa Ain't Salty (full-length version)*

*bonus track


  1. nice! i love Doug Sahm.

  2. more info...

  3. Hey baby que paso!

    Great stuff

  4. Thanks for posting this Fiend...the world can never have too much Doug Sahm!

  5. Hello Friend Fiend. You have done it again. I love the Texas Groover. Any Sir Doug is better than just about anything else, and this is a wonderful collection. Thanks so much for your generous kindness. Look forward to your next amazing find. All the best to you.


  6. I appreciate all of the appreciation, everybody.


  7. thanks for this. DS & Band was actually the first Sir Doug cd I bought, for whatever reason, and I still like it quite a bit. Looking forward to the rest of this! And thanks, as always, for your continued good taste and generosity!

  8. Are there links sharing these albums? I was reading your review of Jeannie C Riley's The Generation Gap and was wanting to listen, but I couldn't find a link. Am I mistaken? anyway Thanks for the great information, it's been fun reading your reviews. Jacob

  9. nice, thank you