Homage to Sir Doug

CD: Keep Your Soul: A Tribute to Doug Sahm by Various Artists — Few musical artists no longer with us deserve a tribute album more than Sahm, whose brilliance, musical depth and versatility is worshipped by those of us who knew his music and, in my case, were also lucky enough to know him (and full disclosure: I’ve written the PR materials for this album for the record company). Best known for his hits “She’s About A Mover” and “Mendocino” as well as his Tex-Mex supergroup The Texas Tornados, Sahm drew from all the roots music wells like it all was the blood in his creative veins, and few if any American musical artists had such natural facility for the real stuff that truly counts. And the 14 artists who pay him homage here—including Los Lobos, Dave Alvin, Delbert McClinton, Alejandro Escovedo and his chip off the block son Shawn Sahm, who was instrumental in getting this album made—do the man right by capturing the all-important groove that ruled Sahm’s approach to music as well as life. If you love blues, R&B, country, rock, Tex-Mex … anything American and real, this album is for you. It’s a fine place to recall Sahm’s greatness if you’re already a fan or a perfect introduction to a musical legacy as worthy and charming as any.

Books: The Darling and Cloudsplitter by Russell Banks — Yeah, I come late to the game with this esteemed and best-selling novelist. A copy of his Continental Drift has been lodged in my bookshelf for years, beckoning me to read it. But it was The Darling that wooed me at the used bookstore with its tale of a former Weather Underground radical who gets caught up in the turmoil of West Africa, written rather impressively by a man from the female point of view. It so transported me into its milieu that I had to carry on reading Banks. Cloudsplitter is just as compelling as it examines race in 19th-century American through the life of Owen Brown, son of abolitionist John Brown. Both books bring politics to the front and center of the table, but never to the expense of the storytelling. Wikipedia says that Martin Scorsese will be making a film of The Darling with Cate Blanchett, and I suppose I can recommend that here even before the camera even rolls with that combination of talent. Meanwhile, it’s on to another Banks book as Cloudsplitter builds to its inevitable conclusion.

From The Progressive Populist, April 1, 2009

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