Dancing About Architecture

Doug Sahm returns from beyond, MP3s shake up Austin music, Hip Hop meets R&B, and the Watermelon Saga continues...

The Return of Doug Sahm

We'll never know what kind of reception would have awaited the new Doug Sahm album if he had lived to see its release. For anyone who knew or was a fan of the local-living "State Musician of Texas," there'll be more than a tinge of sadness in listening to The Return of Wayne Douglas, which was recorded last summer and named for his country music persona. The Chronicle office just received an advance copy of the Wayne Douglas CD, and it's as Lone Star-centric as anything the man ever touched, opening and closing with new takes of the classics "Beautiful Texas Sunshine" and "Texas Me," and new heart-tuggers like "I Can't Go Back to Austin Anymore" mapping the expanse in between. The band, including Augie Meyers, Shawn Sahm, and Bill Kirchen, is in fine West Texas form, with Doug at his earnest best. Despite the vocals being a bit raw, the man behind the album, Bill Bentley, says they aren't "scratch" vocals. Still, the weary, cracking line, "I know the time has come that I've got to be moving on," is particularly revealing of Sahm's physical state at the time of the recording, though it pales in comparison to the answering-machine message that closes the album, leaving Doug to say "adios" for the final time. The Return of Wayne Douglas hits the racks June 13 on Tornado Records. By that time, an album from the other end of Sahm's life should be out -- San Antonio Rock: The Harlem Recordings 1957-1961. Collecting Sahm's pre-Quintet singles featuring Randy Garibay, Cleto Escobedo, and others, San Antonio Rock should be available in CD form now at most local stores, with vinyl copies out soon. Another related but somewhat stranger item that arrived in the mail recently was a note from incarcerated former Sahm producer Huey P. Meaux, who is not dead, but accompanied his comment "[I] don't have my bags packed!! Just something I wanted all my life" with a set of photos of his own tombstone. Ironically, the back of the marker (not shown) displays a list of those who donated toward it, including Sahm. Seeing as Meaux had previously sent me a photocopy of a check he had filled out toward Sahm's planned memorial, all I have to say is, who knew there was logrolling beyond the grave?!

Facing Mecca

Erykah Badu fans who are wondering what happened to her show with Gang Starr Friday at the Austin Music Hall can join the local Hip Hop Mecca crew in their disappointment. Doug Mecca says he'd been talking with Badu personally in organizing the show, but before the contracts could be signed, the news found its way into the American-Statesman, after which Badu's management "respectfully declined" to do the show. (Badu fans can go to the Jazz & Heritage Festival in New Orleans on the 29th, the closest of only two dates she currently has listed at http://www.pollstar.com.) Hip Hop Mecca has plenty of other irons in the fire, however, including a weekly hip-hop night at the Flamingo Cantina starting May 11, followed by a teaming with local R&B promoters Deeva Entertainment, for which they plan to go "the whole nine" as Soul Mecca and put on a series of hip-hop and R&B shows starting later this year. One of the acts they're talking to for the Soul Mecca shows is old-schooler Oran "Juice" Jones. The contracts haven't been signed on that yet, either, but Jones doesn't have recent Grammy fever trailing him or a highly anticipated new album on the way, so the Mecca men aren't too worried about that show getting canned due to premature, eh ... leakage.

Shaving Canada Dry

Honestly, officer, I thought it was a maple leaf! The Asylum Street Spankers, fresh off the first leg of the Hemp for Victory Tour 2000, have been invited to escort the host and crew of Canadian television's travel series The Tourist around Austin next week, with plans calling for clubhopping on Friday night following taping of a special private Spankers show that afternoon. (The Tourist airs on the Travel Channel in the USA.) The next leg of the tour hits festivals and theatres in the Southeast and along the East Coast in June, meaning, says manager John Riedie, that there will be no Prince Hoot Night this summer. However, his second collection of locals "doing" the "Artist," I Feel 4 U -- Austin Does Prince Again, which will contain tracks by Sixteen Deluxe, Knife in the Water, the Spankers, Brown Whörnet, Daniel Johnston, the Gourds, Morningwood, Meat Purveyors, Viper Horse, SXIP, the Golden Arm Trio, and more, will hopefully be out by the end of the year, with a hoot at that time to go with it. If not, it'll be "Another Lonely Christmas" for hardcore fans of the diminutive purple one. Oh, and while the Spankers are away, you can go to http://www.spudnut.com to see an animated excerpt from Wammo's still-unreleased solo album Faster Than the Speed of Suck. Just click on "Satan Cigarettes."

The Record Label Whirl

Getting out on the road will help the Spankers keep their minds off the lawsuits surrounding their former home, Watermelon Records. "Yes, it seems interminable," says Watermelon's attorney David Ward, "but we're getting things worked out." Among those things are the long-running Watermelon bankruptcy case, as well as suits by Watermelon against parent label Sire Records and investors group CHH. A court date of August 1 has been announced as litigation continues on Watermelon's claim that Sire did not fulfill their distribution contract, but one suspects Seymour Stein's office has bigger problems than the seeds of Watermelon's discontent. The major label has "put us on hold for a while," says Damnations TX manager Charles Attal, as Sire's merger with London Records continues to be settled (you'll remember what that did to the Meat Puppets). Attal says the band is just off the road from an East Coast tour, and while readying themselves for a swing through the West Coast are concentrating on "making a living, not waiting for the label" to tell them what to do. When Sire does get its act together and next contacts the band, Attal says the band is ready to get back to recording a new album, "whether it's with Sire or somebody else." Perhaps Sony would be the way to go for the Damnations, as the Nashville Tennessean recently reported that Mike Kraski, Sony Nashville's senior vice president of sales and marketing, says that label's plan to fine-tune a business model more reliant on club tours and small-station radio airplay than on mainstream country radio is centered around locals Charlie and Bruce Robison, and good Texan Jack Ingram, artists signed to Sony's Lucky Dog Records label. "That's the grand experiment," The Tennessean quotes Kraski as saying. "It's now beginning to bear fruit." Hopefully, that fruit won't be Watermelon. Finally, Steve Wilkison's local Dejadisc indie may be long defunct, but its spirit lives on. Wilkison now works for Nashville's Eminent Records, and his name can be seen on a pair of first-time-on-CD reissues of classic Emmylou Harris (Cimarron and Last Date) as reissue producer and designer. Cimarron is especially notable for Townes Van Zandt fans, as the disc contains Harris' acclaimed hit duet with Don Williams performing Townes' "If I Needed You."

Mixed Notes

If you're a Butthole Surfers fan who still hasn't managed to get your mitts on a bootleg copy of the band's unreleased Capitol Records contract-breaker The Last Astronaut, and you can't wait until Surfdog/Hollywood Records releases their next real album (still apparently coming this summer), check out the soundtrack album of the upcoming Tom Cruise actioner Mission Impossible 2. The Astronaut track "They Came In" makes a late debut on the disc alongside tracks by Limp Bizkit, Godsmack, Metallica, and the Foo Fighters with Brian May (!) when it hits stores on May 9. By the by, the Butts have also announced tentative plans to re-release their hard-to-find Double Live album, in MP3 form only, sometime this year... If you spotted Bruce Springsteen at the Bob Marley Festival last weekend, it wasn't because somebody spiked your ganja, say volunteers at the event. The New Jersey rocker apparently got into town early and unobtrusively made a weekend visit to Auditorium Shores to enjoy some reggae before his Monday- night gig at the Erwin Center (see "Live Shots"). Having neglected to bring any canned goods, the Boss made an unspecified cash donation, say Marley staffers. Joe Ely's appearance at the Springsteen show was anything but inobtrusive, as the local icon received a thunderous ovation when he joined Bruce and the E Street Band for a rendition of "All Just to Get to You," apparently chosen since Springsteen performs guest vocals on the song for Ely's Letter to Laredo album. I'm sure every member of the Erwin Center audience has since bought a copy of that fine disc, right?... Speaking of special guests, local Austin power poppers Stones Throw, who've been flown out to California three times in recent months by various labels, recently got a phone call from Third Eye Blind frontman Stephen Jenkins, asking if they could jam with Stones Throw at Lucy's after the Blind show with Tonic at the Music Hall that same night. Jenkins and Tonic's Emerson Hart ended the night by joining Stones Throw members for a rendition of "Break on Through." Before getting onstage, Emerson made himself useful upstairs running lights during the show. I'd love to see Cotton Mather try to get their new buddies in Oasis to do that!... Finally, while you're waiting for Eeyore's birthday next Sunday in Pease Park, you might want to check out this Sunday's return of the Subgenius spin-off Church of the Great Juggle to Hank's Roadside Grill on Airport. The Church's Rev. Slackananda says it is his "mission" to fight the generification of Austin (as it should be for all of us), and that Hank's needs your support now as they've run into troubles with the city limiting the venue's hours of operation and the nature of the events that go on there. Check out the drum circle, fire dancing, music, etc. starting at 6pm and show the city what you think Austin was made to be like...

Contributors: Christopher Gray, Raoul Hernandez, Andy Langer, Margaret Moser

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Doug Sahm, Hip Hop Mecca, Watermelon Records, MP3s

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