Listening to Doug Sahm can be like unfolding a musical road map; taking a journey from Norteno Texas dust, through Gulf Coast big band R&B and honky tonk country, on to San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury psychedelic heyday in 1967.
Doug Sahm had an amazing gift for embodying, just plain being, his musical roots. A child prodigy steel guitar player, he had achieved regional hit-record status by the time he was a teenager, scoring a national hit with “She’s About a Mover” not much later.
Mendocino, with its title song a top 40 charting single in 1969, is the Sahm-led Sir Douglas Quintet’s finest hour, the exhilarating record of a musical heart, mind, and soul in perfect accord. Long out of print, this 1960s milepost is at last available on CD.
The title song is teeny-bopper pop set to a bouncy Tex-Mex beat and shot through with a dose of soul. After that sweet start, the album finds one great groove after another, from twangy fiddle-driven road epics that move along like a slightly stoned Ray Price shuffle, to distorted blues guitar freak-outs, to wide-open white soul laments. But it’s all rooted in a tight musicality that is as far from self-absorbed as pop music can possibly be. Harvey Kegan and Louie Perez, on bass and drums respectively, are a rock-solid rhythm section; Frank Morin’s horns are at least as sweet and soulful as anything Jack Schroer came up with for Van Morrison in the 70s; and Augie Meyer’s trademark roller rink-accordion organ sound is precise and brilliant, adding a sort of dusty uplift to the proceedings.
The real miracle here, though, is Sahm’s voice: a coarse growl, sweet and warm around the edges, it sounded perfect on blues, country, soul, or even Dylan-esque folk balladry. Sahm’s voice and delivery would have made him an icon even if he’d not been such a pioneer of crossroads and borderland American music.
Mendocino was an early peak in a legendary career. One of the album’s themes is its slightly self-mocking look at what it means to be a country boy in a big, strange, confusing world. But the real message lies in the feeling of pure joy in making music that runs through every track.
I bought my LP copy of Mendocino in 1972 for .99 cents from a cut-out bin at a Mammoth Mart in New Hampshire. The same day, for the same price, I scored a copy of another essential Texas document, Live at Cain’s Ballroom by Ernest Tubb and his Texas Troubadours. Both records got played a lot; they helped shape my listening –and playing – from that time on.
In some ways, Texas and the Southwest were America’s greatest musical frontier. In Stetson hat, buckskin, or tie-dye, Doug Sahm always did that frontier proud.
by Kevin Macneil Brown
1. Mendocino - 2:40
2. I Don't Want - 3:45
3. I Wanna Be Your Mama Again - 3:10
4. At The Crossroads - 4:30
5. If You Really Want Me To I'll Go (Delbert McClinton) - 2:35
6. And It Didn't Even Bring Me Down (D. Sahm, Frank Morin, Martin Fierro) - 2:30
7. Lawd I'm Just A Country Boy In This Great Big Freaky City - 2:45
8. She's About A Mover - 3:20
9. Texas Me (D. Sahm, F. Morin, M. Fierro, John Perez, Augie Meyer) - 2:35
10. Oh, Baby, It Just Don't Matter - 3:15
11. Sunday Sunny Mill Valley Groove Day - 3:26
12. Sir Doug's Recording Trip - 3:00
13. The Homecoming (T.T. Hall) - 3:20
14. Hello Amsterdam - 2:48
15. At The Crossroads (Alternative Mix) - 4:37
16. Texas Me (Alternative Mix) (D. Sahm, F. Morin, M. Fierro, J. Perez, A. Meyer) - 2:36
All songs by Doug Sahm except where noted.
Bonus tracks from 11-16
Sir Douglas Quintet
*Doug Sahm – Vocals, Guitar, Pedal Steel Guitar, Fiddle
*Frank Morin – Vocals, Horns
*Harvey Kagan – Bass Guitar
*Augie Meyers – Organ, Piano, Keyboards
*John Perez – Drums
To Jamie (Tacobueno) for his great support
Thanks my friend
For more Sir Douglas
1964-66 The Best Of ....Plus