Mercury assembled Rough Edges in 1973, after Doug Sahm had put the Sir Douglas Quintet on hiatus and headed over to Atlantic Records for a solo contract. The label cobbled it together from various odds and ends the Quintet left behind -- mainly B-sides, but also some non-LP singles and a few cuts that didn't make it to vinyl prior to this LP. Of course, if you simply listened to the album without knowing its back story, it's likely that you wouldn't realize that it was a compilation of leftovers, since it sounds for all the world like a proper Sir Doug album, as ragged and glorious as Mendocino or Together After Five. This speaks to the nature of both Sahm's music and his albums: all his music is instantly recognizable as uniquely his, whether it's recorded under the Quintet's name or his own, a blend of rock, blues, country, and Tejano that has a seemingly endless series of variations while all sounding kind of similar, while his albums are often cheerfully unfocused affairs, varying in recording quality and performance, where slight songs are given crackling, exciting performances and great songs tossed off the cuff. To those doubters, this can be infuriating, but once you've been turned on to Sahm, this is precisely one of the things to love about his music, both with and without the Sir Douglas Quintet, and it goes a long way to explaining why Rough Edges, despite its ragtag nature, is as satisfying as any of his albums and arguably ranks among his best. If anything, the odds'n'sods origins benefit the album, since it puts the focus on the individual songs instead of being a collection of highlights from a session. And on a song-for-song basis, there are as many classics on Rough Edges as there are on any other Sir Douglas Quintet album: the circling, slyly autobiographical "Sir Doug's Recording Trip," which traces the arc of Sahm's career; the relentless, nearly maniacal edge of "You're Doing It Too Hard"; the wonderful "Mendocino" rewrite of "Dynamite Woman," nearly as good as the original and one of the great Tex-Mex rock & roll songs; the slow blues on "Soulful Woman" and a terrific Texas shuffle with "Linda Lou"; the lazily brilliant lyricism of "Too Many Docile Minds," complemented by the anthemic sketch "Spearfish By Night"; the excursions into country with "Southside Girls" and the two-step Cajun-styled "Colinda"; and finally, the rollicking travelogue "Hello Amsterdam," as vivid as any Chuck Berry tale. That's the entire album, and while all these strands don't necessarily coalesce into a grand picture, there's not a song that should be left behind, and taken together, it adds up to a great rock record by any measure, which is certainly a testament to how great the Sir Douglas Quintet were at their peak.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine