Live at the Troubadour captures Sahm in his sweet spot. He’s coming off five years in California following a marijuana bust in Texas.
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The music life of Douglas Wayne Sahm spanned a half-century, beginning as a steel guitar child prodigy who appeared frequently on TV in his hometown of San Antonio and graced the stage of the Louisiana Hayride; and concluding in 1999 as the founder of the Tex-Mex supergroup The Texas Tornados, alongside Freddy Fender, Augie Meyers, and Flaco Jimenez.
Along the way, he sat on Hank Williams’ knee, watched T-Bone Walker articulate the modern electric blues guitar, had local hit rock and roll records while in high school, and stormed onto the Top 40 charts as the Sir Douglas Quintet, dressed up like an English band and sounding like one too with “She’s About A Mover.”
Live at the Troubadour captures Sahm in his sweet spot. He’s coming off five years in California following a marijuana bust in Texas, the Quintet having dissolved and reformed as Sahm experimented in the recording studio in San Francisco.
He’s moving back to Texas, is a couple months away from recording an album for Atlantic Records and Jerry Wexler with an all-star lineup that includes Bob Dylan, Dr. John, and Fathead Newman, and will soon reinvent himself as a cosmic cowboy in Austin before moving on to New Wave, blues, and country phases and establishing residencies in Sweden and Canada.
Four-fifths of the original Quintet are on hand: sidekick Augie Meyers, the maestro of syncopation on the Vox organ; Frank Morin, who sings harmonies and plays shakers, sax and harmonica; and drummer Johnny Perez, the former boxer who moved from San Antonio to Los Angeles to start his Amigos de Musica production company.
Martin Fierro, the blazing saxophonist from El Paso who started playing with Sahm in California on the adventurous Honky Blues + 2 album and turned Doug on to quality cannabis, has come down from San Francisco for the gig. Jimmy Stallings, aka JJ Light, is the high-energy, relatively new addition to the Quintet.
It’s about as pure a performance as you’ll hear from Sahm, who in spite of an illustrious recording career spanning more than 20 albums and at least 50 singles, was first and foremost a live gig player.
The Troubadour audience is a tough one, offering applause as praise, not the dancing or whooping or hollering the band was used to in rowdier venues. Doug plays it straight, keeping his usual between-song patter to a minimum and tamping down his urge to respond to requests.
In return, we are treated to the Sir Douglas Quintet’s big hits played live as if they were in a concert hall – “She’s About A Mover,” “Mendocino,” “Dynamite Woman ” -- along with cool grooves like “And It Didn’t Even Bring Me Down” and “Tortilla Flats;” classic horn-driven R n B that Doug grew up with San Antonio (“Glad For Your Sake”), and his original Country & Western shuffle (replete with cosmic San Francisco hippie lyrics), “Be Real.” JJ Light’s “Heya Heya” is the unexpected treat, with Doug yielding the lead vocals to Jimmy Stallings while the band churns out that trademark SDQ backbeat behind him.
Authentic, all over the map, and sounding like it could have come from nowhere but Texas: that’s Doug Sahm and the Sir Douglas Quintet live and in person.
—Joe Nick Patoski
Lifelong Doug-Head, is the director of the documentary film
Sir Doug and the Genuine Texas Cosmic Groove