Doug Sahm's and Handsome Joel's memories live on, even as the international pipeline into Austin dries up
By Christopher Gray, Fri., Feb. 11, 2005
It's almost spring-cleaning time, and thus almost time to clear some more room on the Doug Sahm shelf for another top-notch collection à la 2003's Doug Sahm: The Genuine Texas Groover. This latest trip to the vault, Doug Sahm & the Sir Douglas Quintet: The Complete Mercury Recordings, collects Sahm's output during his high San Francisco period from roughly 1968-1973, before Atlantic's Jerry Wexler bought his contract. Spanning five discs, the set will include remastered versions of the albums Honkey Blues, Mendocino, Together After Five, 1+1+1=4, The Return of Doug Saldaña, and the odds 'n' sods disc Rough Edges, issued after Sahm had already jumped ship. Due March 4 on Universal's nostalgia imprint Hip-O, and assembled with input from the Sahm family, the collection marks the first time these albums will be available in full since they went out of print; for years and years, the only existing recording covering this period was 1990's single-disc The Best of Doug Sahm & the Sir Douglas Quintet. During these years, Sahm also had a production contract with Mercury, so his work producing the likes of Junior Parker and Roy Head will be included, as will Spanish covers of "Mendocino" and "Nuevo Laredo," and alternate versions of Sahm staples like "At the Crossroads" and "Texas Me," which was recorded at the same Nashville sessions as "Be Real," then promptly mislabeled and all but forgotten about. The fifth disc of the set, available online only through www.hiposelect.com, will contain mono mixes of all Sahm's singles from the period, from Honkey Blues' "Are Inlaws Really Outlaws?" to Doug Saldaña's "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights." That's not all, either: Warner Bros. is said to be preparing to reissue Sahm's 1974 ode to hippie Austin, Groover's Paradise, next month as well. Now that's a lot of beautiful Texas sunshine.
In wartime, the term "collateral damage" describes any unintended casualties: those unfortunate souls who happen to wander into the line of fire. Since the Bush administration began its war on terror after 9/11, musicians from other countries are among the ones taking collateral damage; namely, whereas once it was easy for them to book a tour in the States, these days it's nearly impossible. "I know it's aimed at the whole terrorist thing, but unfortunately it's affecting bands and artists, and they're not able to get here as easily," says Flamingo Cantina owner Angela Gillen, who estimates her club booked half as many international shows in 2004 as 2003. "We have quite a few artists from Africa and Europe and the Caribbean that come up," she says. "It's very frustrating for us, because that's a big part of what we do." The main obstacle for these artists is navigating the Department of Homeland Security's stricter bylaws for procuring a work visa, which can be both costly and time-consuming. "We deal with that daily," says Elif Selvili of the Austin-based Ritmo Artists Booking Agency, which takes most of its clients from Europe and Africa, and can only book Canadian stops for its Cuban clients since the government put Fidel Castro's homeland on the bad list. Since booking a tour is a very time-sensitive affair, Selvili says often the only way to ensure a band will have all its necessary paperwork in time is to shell out an extra $1,000 for the premium fee to expedite visa processing. "Consider an 11-piece band from Guinea," she says. "They're barely making any money as it is. Having to add another $1,000 to that is a major financial hardship." It's still better than the alternative, though: "With regular processing, it could take two weeks, it could take six months, it could take a year, and you can't say anything," she notes. Moreover, bands often have to pay that much to immigration lawyers and consultants to compile press clippings proving the artists are worthy of a visa. The end result, predictably, is that many never even get on a plane. "We're filtering out any band who doesn't have money," sighs Selvili. "It's a sadly elitist system, making sure the interesting bands who are up-and-coming don't get heard here."
Far from the madding crowd of Sixth Street, age-defying Cajun entertainers BeauSoleil dropped by the Texas Union Ballroom Saturday night for a mature Mardi Gras party. Fiddler Michael Doucet led his follically challenged ensemble, which he formed in the mid-Seventies, through traditional numbers like "The Flames of Hell" and new material from the band's recent Gitane Cajun, as a steady stream of dancers twirled around the Ballroom floor. The main pulse was Cajun waltz, not Texas two-step, but Austin's Cindy Cashdollar, who toured with BeauSoleil in 2001, added some homespun twang, as did Doucet's set-closing cover of friend Augie Meyers' "Can't You See." Très bon!
Treatin' 'em Right Since '69: A Tribute to Handsome Joel Svatek(Arclight) HANDSOME FAMILY
This 2-CD, 22-song collection rounds up several personal favorites of the man many called "the patron saint of Red River," as well as others equally touched by his sudden 2003 passing. Many songs, including Dixie Witch's "Here Today, Gone Tomorrow," Brewtality Inc.'s "The King of Red River," and Charlie's Holy Happy Hour's "The Show Goes On," were written specifically for Joel.BEASTS OF BURDEN
Out-of-towners touched by Handsome Joel include Atlanta's Mastodon, who contribute disc-two opener "Elephant Man," and New Orleans' Hazard County Girls, with "Birthday." Standout covers include Tia Carrera's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," SuperHeavyGoatAss' "A Country Boy Can Survive," the Oklahomos' "Amazing Grace," and the Bulemics' "Deep in the Heart of Texas."SWEET KAOS
Several clips from Svatek's KAOS radio show, featuring his comments on bands like Honky, are used as intros and outros. The first words on the CD are "That's right, motherfuckers. You're listening to Handsome Joel. This is my fuckin' show, so fuckin' crank it up, bitches!"
CD release party Monday, Feb. 14, at Room 710.
Bullet the Blue Sky
As quietly as he slipped onto SXSW's big board, street hassler Lou Reed has slipped back off. "He had commitments that made it where he was just not going to be able to come," says Creative Director Brent Grulke. The festival has firmed up its free Auditorium Shores offerings, with UK riddim riders Steel Pulse anchoring Thursday, Alejandro Escovedo and Ian Hunter splitting Friday, and Crescent City boogie men the Neville Brothers funking up Saturday. Unconfirmed SXSW rumor of the week: a reunited Geto Boys joining Scarface's set.
Health care attorney Fletcher Brown, physician and sometime Prescott Curlywolf member Ron Byrd, and acupuncturist David Karchmer were elected to the SIMS Foundation Board of Directors last week. Returning board members include Ray Benson, Charlie Jones, Patrice Pike, and New West Records' Jay Woods. To seek help from SIMS, or to volunteer, call 472-1008.
Taking a cue from the Ice Bats, Bob Schneider will play a free post-game concert after Saturday's UT-Kansas State contest in the Frank Erwin Center. The show is free for anyone with a game ticket; tip time is 12:45pm. Tickets available through Texas Box Office outlets or by calling 477-6060.
Tambaleo, the upscale West End nightspot that took over from the hallowed Electric Lounge, celebrates its second anniversary Tuesday with a weekend-worthy bill of This Microwave World and What Made Milwaukee Famous for only $3. Show starts at 10:30pm; look for more Tuesday shows of similar caliber to follow.