I have been breaking out the Doug Sahm lately. Anyone in Austin needs no introduction to Doug Sahm. However, if you aren’t aware of him, he is a true American original. In my mind no one sounds like Austin as much as he does. Although he is part of Austin’s musical legacy, I really feel like he represents the mythical Austin, the place where the cowboys and hippies got along, the place people imagine Austin to be even if modernity is turning it into a far more urban place. I’m not saying that Austin no longer exists, just that you have to look much harder to find it. He combines different genres in a way that is unique, that no one else has quite done in the same way. Rock, blues, country, Mexican music, and more rub up against one another. One of my favorite songs of his is the above song Hard Way. It’s from The Sir Douglas Band album Texas Tornado. Listen to the funky groove, the Tex-Mex horns, and the way the song elevates into a big chorus with a truly sweet harmony.
Probably the only people that own more music than me are other musicians or those who are obsessive compulsive collectors of music. I may even lean towards the latter. Music is both my passion, my career, and my hobby. Despite all of the music that I might slag off if we were to have a conversation, there is an incredible amount that I love. Even though a lot of the music I own is no longer in any physical form, I thought I would call it Cleaning Out the Music Library, where I would write about five great albums and keep them to a paragraph a piece. Most of my newer posts deal with whatever I am listening to or inspired by at the time. I thought this would be a good way to make people aware of some other great records that are out there. I am picking randomly out of my iTunes library, on whatever the spirit moves me to write about. If I have touched upon any of these releases before, it is only by shear lack of memory, as I have posted close to 2,000 posts here by now.
1. Adam Ant is the BlueBlack Hussar Marrying the Gunner’s Daughter – Adam Ant – After Adam Ant spent years out of the music business due to personal problems, he returned with a double album. The album was unlike most comeback records as it is a truly strange piece of work. It is a low fi record that owes more to the early post punk spirit than a thousand indie bands combined. This record wasn’t aimed at getting back to the top of the charts, but about creating something personal, unique, and actually artistic. There are some great melodies and vocals on this record. However, the vocals and the songs can sound slightly off the cuff, as if these could be perfect pop songs, but he decided to record them in a moment of inspiration and leave them be. Many of the recordings are more like demos than finished studio tracks. All of this works in the albums favor as it sounds outside of time.
2. Build a Nation – Bad Brains – Produced by now deceased Beastie Boy MCA, this record was a return to form for the band. MCA recorded the Bad Brains to analog tape and got some of the fiercest recordings out of them in some time. Some critics complained about the amount of effects added to singer H.R.’s slightly diminished voice, but I think it only makes the proceedings weirder and more interesting. The punk tracks, or whatever you call it when the Bad Brains go all out, as they are far more musically adept than most punk bands, are better than the reggae tracks, which miss the rawness of their early reggae work. However, even those tracks are respectable and they serve to add some variety to the proceedings. The record sounds great in the way that only tape can. If you are a fan of their early work, or you like the creativity and insanity of early 80’s punk, this record is worth checking out. True freaks of their time.
3. Doug Sahm and His Band – Doug Sahm – Even though he was born in San Antonio, no other musician quite captures what I think of as Austin music quite like Doug Sahm. Country, blues, rock, and other genres come together to create a unique Tex-Mex blend. It truly is something that hippies and cowboys, or just fans of great music, could get into. The music feels extremely loose on the surface, but there are a lot of hooks here. It’s the work of someone that both knew what he was doing, and was free enough to live in the moment. I could have picked other records from his long career, but this is a great place to start if you haven’t heard of him, or you have and have never actually checked his work out before.
4. Raise the Pressure – Electronic – This is what happens when Johnny Marr and Bernard Sumner make an album together, though to be fair the music is slightly more weighted towards the kind of pop that Bernard Sumner is famous for in New Order. (Though there are some great mid period Johnny Marr guitar hooks.) Some of the keyboards sound like they are from the 80’s, even though this album was released in 1996, but I’m not picking this record because it is hip. It’s just full of great pop songs, great hooks, and some great British musical moments. If you like pop music with effervescent melodies and great playing, this album has loads of both. This record is really cool because it doesn’t even try to be, it’s just emotional and enjoyable.
5. Popular Delusions and the Madness of Cows – Ramsay Midwood – My favorite Ramsay Midwood record is Larry Buys a Lighter. I know many people that love his first album. But Ramsay Midwood has never made a bad record and they are all full of his unique personality, lyrics, and way with a groove. This album features a couple of my favorite Midwood songs in Jesus Is #1 and Planet Nixon. Midwood writes lyrics that are often full of dark dry humor. “Jesus is #1, I’m #2, and the rest of y’all is #3.” His music can only be described as honky tonk music from another dimension. People that think Sturgill Simpson is unique haven’t got a clue. On nights that I’m not playing in Austin, if I am going out to see music, I would just as soon see Midwood play as much as anyone else. But Midwood isn’t strange for the sake of it. He gets how deeply weird this country is and holds a mirror back up to it. If you pay close attention he’ll have you laughing at the strange truth of it all.