Various Artists

Keep Your Soul: A Tribute to Doug Sahm

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Ten years after his passing, Doug Sahm's family, friends, and followers salute the Texas giant with Keep Your Soul: A Tribute to Doug Sahm. Surprise isn't the order of the day -- of all the artists involved, only Afghan Whig/Gutter Twin Greg Dulli could be called unexpected -- but rather a warm evocation of Sahm's spirit and sensibility, how he effortlessly encompassed almost every element of Texan music. By the very nature of a multi-artist tribute, Sahm's wide range is both emphasized and diminished, suggesting that he flitted from style to style instead of how blues, country, Tex-Mex, jazz, and rock & roll all coexisted in his music. Still, as tribute album problems go, this is pretty minor -- after all, what matters is the music, and Keep Your Soul is pretty rousing in that regard. Bookended by Sir Doug's two best-known songs -- "She's About a Mover," here performed by Little Willie G., the vocalist for Thee Midniters and Malo, supported by Ry Cooder among others; and "Mendocino," performed by Sahm's son Shawn -- this otherwise sidesteps such obvious picks as "Texas Tornado" (or any of his early-'70s recordings for Atlantic for that matter) in favor of a healthy dose of the Sir Douglas Quintet and the Texas Tornados, plus solo tunes from throughout the years. The order of the day isn't reinterpretation, it's celebration, and there are many joyful performances here, highlighted by Los Lobos' relaxed, breezy "It Didn't Even Bring Me Down," Delbert McClinton's easy-rolling "Texas Me," Jimmie Vaughan's glorious slow crawl through "Why, Why, Why," Joe "King" Carrasco's rollicking "Adios Mexico" supported by the Texas Tornados, and those aforementioned bookends. Then again, there are no bad moments here. Whatever stumbles there may be are largely down to a matter of taste -- some might find Dulli's "You Was for Real" too gloomy, the Gourds' "Nuevo Laredo" a little too light and nimble -- but there's no denying that everything here is executed with love and care, faithful to the big, open-hearted soul of Doug Sahm, and you can't ask for a better tribute than that.

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