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Arts and Culture

The Groover

Doug Sahm was the funkiest cowboy of them all. A new retrospective captures the man on the rise.

Adrian Mack 24 Mar

Adrian Mack contributes a regular music column to The Tyee and frequently sits behind Rich Hope.

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The other Bob and Doug.

The word 'groove' wafts through the classic Sir Douglas Quintet song "Mendocino" like a sweet cloud of reefer. And then, of course, there is its warm, THC-infused chorus: "Mendocino, Mendocino, where life's such a groove, you blow your mind in the morning..."

To my ears, Doug Sahm sounds like he's basically made of cannabis. The man who fronted the Sir Douglas Quintet on and off for some 35 years kept his groove when all about were losing theirs, burning the cherry all the way through the decidedly ungroovy '80s and '90s, and right up to his too-early death in '99.

Sahm's goodvibes weren't just some artifact of his '60s roots, when the Quintet had its first and biggest hit with "She's About a Mover." Sahm was internally groovy. It was fundamental to his nature. It's partly why we love him so much, and it's also why he gets away with dropping the phrase "it sure does wig me out" right in the middle of a song as otherwise haunting and stately as "At the Crossroads." It further explains how he can come up with something as simultaneously daffy and beautiful as the amber Texas pop of "Sunday Sunny Mill Valley Groove Day."

Doug Sahm sure liked that word, groove. Casting back over the man's towering catalogue, we also find "Country Groove" from 1976's Texas Rock for Country Rollers, and a 1973 team-up with the CCR rhythm section for an album with the ultimate Doug Sahm title -- Groover's Paradise. Besides the song of the same name, he also throws in a laid back R&B number called "Just Groove Me" for good measure.

This week, the similarly groovy reissue label Sundazed (motto: "Kinda like a record company, except fun and run by music lovers") dropped its two-album retrospective, Sir Douglas Quintet, the Mono Singles, '68 - '72. Sahm fans will want it, even though we all probably have every track already, in multiple formats. But it's a form of tribute to a genuine original who never released a bad record, and whose canon is unmatched in its pure sense of joy.

For those unfamiliar with Sahm and the Sir Douglas Quintet, you lucky bastards, this set gives you the full monty of Sahm's utterly unique cosmic American vision; a funky border mix of Tex-Mex country soul and cajun western blues. Music this groovy gives you the munchies.  [Tyee]

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