North and South

Tranquil Canada flavors San Antonian Doug Sahm's rustic music

Four years later, the group reunited for another album, 4 Aces, and soon after took a second hiatus that lasted until the recent live recordings.

"There's something about the chemistry of the four of us," Sahm says. "We've always been a great live band. So after this deal and that deal, it was like, let's do something that's really us."

But even this latest outing by the Tornados can't distract Sahm from his many other interests. He's started an independent label, Tornado Records, with Reprise Records publicity veep and expatriate Texan Bill Bentley. First up for the new venture will be an album by Dallas country singer and songwriter Ed Burleson, after which Sahm will offer his own country set as the label's second release.

Clamor for Doug Sahm (far right) and his Texas Tornados moves the band to reunite and record every so often.
Clamor for Doug Sahm (far right) and his Texas Tornados moves the band to reunite and record every so often.

And then there's Sahm's relentless travels, which might find him chilling out in the mountains of Colorado, checking out baseball spring training in Florida, doing the music business thing in Los Angeles, escaping the heat in Western Canada, or playing a festival somewhere in Europe, where he remains one of the most popular exports from Texas.

Although the genuine stardom Sahm deserves has eluded him, he's managed to turn the hippie ethos of doing your own thing into a lifestyle that gives him the room to follow his muse wherever it takes him, and pursue a personal freedom that few other working musicians approaching 60 years old ™ or any age, for that matter ™ can claim to enjoy.

How does he do it? "I'm a hermit, man," Sahm says, a notion that would surprise anyone who has seen Sahm work a room, onstage or off, what with his constant adrenal energy. "I've got all this shit on my mind, but man, I also like to rest. People say, 'How can you have so much energy?' I love to sleep, maybe kick back and watch 'Perry Mason,' sleep maybe nine, ten hours, get up, put the coffee on, read the paper for two hours. You've gotta figure that shit out. That leads to contentment."

And even though Sahm is the walking, talking, singing and playing epitome of Texas music, he says he is most content up in Canada. To underscore the point, Sahm recalls the satisfied smile on his face found in a snapshot on the back cover of the CD booklet to S.D.Q. '98, his most recent solo album, released last fall. With green hills and deep blue sea behind him, Sahm positively beams underneath his San Antonio Missions baseball cap.

"San Antone hat with a Canadian background," he says with pride. "That's a happy motherfucker. You'll never see that guy here, not with the yuppies and all that bullshit in Austin. That guy doesn't exist here. My crib's just right over that hill. You talk about some cold beer and some crazed fuckin' IndiansŠ

"That's paradise, man. The right season, you'll see whales jumping up and down. Look how clean that water is. And what am I wearing? A Missions cap!

"I live with a foot in both worlds, man. And I gotta have both worlds," Sahm says. "If it wasn't for that and my family and all my friends [in Texas], hell, I'd be in Vancouver all the time. Because I just love the Northwest. You don't have to worry about allergies and all that. But hell, after eating salmon for five days in a row, where do ya go from there? You gotta have an enchilada, man."

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