SXSW: A Texas State of Mind

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With so many types of music acts from so many places, South by Southwest often feels like anything but Texas: Hairball Japanese metal bands, Brit-poppers, and electro-geek ensembles don’t exactly shout “Howdy!” But the Doug Sahm tribute at Antone’s, sponsored by Utne Reader and the Americana Music Association, was fully steeped in the Lone Star State.

Sahm had a passion for “American music–blues, jazz, real country, Tex-Mex, garage rock. He loved it all,” music journalist Tom Surowicz, a friend of Sahm’s, told me. There were tinges of all of these and more on the Antone’s stage as a rotating cast of Texas musicians took a whirlwind spin through Sahm’s good-time music to honor him and promote a new album, Keep Your Soul: A Tribute to Doug Sahm, on Vanguard Records.

The tribute kicked off with guitarist Jimmie Vaughan, who along with his late brother Stevie Ray is a legend of Antone’s stage; Austin roots-rockers the Gourds; Sahm’s son Shawn Sahm and the Tex-Mex Experience; California folk-blues tunesmith Dave Alvin, who wore a Stetson and a bandana for the occasion; and the boot-kickin’ band Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles. All delivered spirited versions of Sahm classics to a rapidly filling house.

Then things started to get legendary. Shawn Sahm brought out surviving members of his dad’s band the Texas Tornados, including keyboardist Augie Meyers and accordionist Flaco Jimenez, and proceeded to lead them through blazing renditions of more Sahm favorites, including the biggies “Mendocino” and “She’s About a Mover.” Shawn, a wiry, slight guy in a cowboy hat and a black Beatles shirt, was giddy with excitement, grinning ear to ear like his dad, tossing his head back to laugh, and wagging his tongue as he put the all-star band through its paces. When he shouted out “I love you, Dad” near the set’s end, it was clear from the crowd’s enthusiastic response that they did, too.

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