Keep Your Soul: A Tribute to Doug Sahm
Keep Your Soul: A Tribute to Doug Sahm (Vanguard)
Reviewed by Margaret Moser, Fri., April 17, 2009
Keep Your Soul: A Tribute to Doug Sahm(Vanguard)
The outpouring of love and emotion spilling from every single track of this sterling tribute to the father of Americana is superseded only by the sheer genius of talent within. Beyond its significance honoring the inimitable Doug Sahm, whose death in 1999 left a hole the size of Texas in the heart of rock & roll, Keep Your Soul works because the performers are as unlikely (Little Willie G., Greg Dulli) as expected (Joe "King" Carrasco, Los Lobos), and the arrangements are never slavish. That's an important dynamic in Sahm's music, because while sometimes his signature tunes weren't his own, he composed definitive entries in the American Songbook. Some, such as Delbert McClinton's strings-laden "Texas Me" and Alejandro Escovedo's bittersweet "Too Little Too Late," ought to be included in the performers' live sets; the Gourds' spot-on "Nuevo Laredo" often is. Others, such as Terry Allen's unexpected "I'm Not That Kat Anymore" and Freda & the Firedogs' yearning "Be Real," are sweetly nostalgic. Hands-down highlights are Charlie Sexton & the Mystic Knights of the Sea's rip-snorting 1-2-3 on "You're Doin' It Too Hard" and bandmate Flaco Jimenez & the Westside Horns' "Ta Bueno Compadre," but the gift of Keep Your Soul is the soulful tenor of Shawn Sahm. His "Mendocino," Doug's last U.S. chart-topper, entwines with his father's musical soulmate, the truly great Augie Meyers. Shawn conjures the real Sahm magic with honeyed vocals so evocative of his father yet so his own that his is the ultimate thanks to Doug for eternally beautiful vibrations. Can you dig it?