Trio of Texas Ties
Texas Tornado: The Times & Music of Doug Sahm
By Jan Reid, with Shawn Sahm
One of my favorite concert bootlegs of all time is a tape recording of Doug Sahm, Jerry Garcia, and Leon Russell performing at Threadgill’s in the late ’60s. It’s a strange trio, granted, that mixes psychedelic music, gospel, and cowboy songs — with just a little Tex-Mex boogie-woogie tossed in for good measure — but somehow, Doug Sahm found success doing just that. As a child he once played onstage with Hank Williams, setting the bar for a career that would go on to last five decades and influence everyone from Willie Nelson to Wilco.
His exceptional talent and legacy are definitely worth revisiting in this biography by longtime Texas music writer Jan Reid, written with help from Sahm’s son Shawn. Texas Tornado: The Times & Music of Doug Sahm suffers slightly from a heavy dose of “inside baseball,” with a lot of name-dropping that won’t mean much if you’re not already an aficionado of Texas music. But if you’d like a peek at the kind of creative energy that it takes to power a tornado like Sahm, you’ll definitely find it here. With anecdotes from fellow musicians, family members, and fans, Texas Tornado is a worthy biography of Sahm covering everything from his early days in San Antonio to his tragic and untimely death in a roadside motel. Bob Dylan sums it up best, saying, “I miss Doug. He got caught in the grind. He should still be here.”
Austin City Limits: 35 Years in Photographs
Photographs by Scott Newton
Edited by Terry Lickona and Scott Newton
Foreword by John Mayer, with assistance from Michael Toland
Many fans were upset when Austin City Limits changed format earlier this decade. For 25 years, the PBS music showcase almost exclusively featured country and blues artists, with the occasional pop and folk performer sprinkled in. But roughly 10 years ago the show shifted its focus to draw a wider (and younger) audience. Suddenly big-name pop acts like Norah Jones and Coldplay or indie bands like The Flaming Lips took their place in a spotlight where Buck Owens or Johnny Cash once stood.
The format change was a huge risk but the gamble paid off. Ratings soared and a whole new generation of dedicated viewers discovered the show. But forget about the generation gap for a second. Critics point to the immediacy of Austin City Limits’ live performances as its key strength — there’s no fooling the audience when they’re standing a mere 10 feet away.
That intimate stage presence is wonderfully captured in Austin City Limits: 35 Years in Photographs. Scott Newton’s images span the entire 35-year history of the show, offering us a rare look behind the scenes as well as a view from the front row. The raw energy and sincerity of the performers is shown with such vibrancy that you can’t help but wish you had been there. For anyone who is a fan of the show, this book is a must-have.
By Terry Allen
Texts by Dave Hickey
Essays by Marcia Tucker and Michael Ventura
Terry Allen has exhibited everywhere from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, but the artist has always remained true to his roots in West Texas. Part of the legendary Monterey High School crew that included Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and Butch Hancock, Allen is a visual artist but is also frequently named as a big influence on the contemporary alt-country sound of bands like Cross Canadian Ragweed or Reckless Kelly.
With more than 12 albums put out over the years, it’s no surprise to find connections to Allen’s music when they crop up in his visual work. But unlike so many other musician-painters’ works, Allen’s visual art stands on its own remarkably well.
The first book covering his life’s work — everything from oil-on-canvas to bronzes to public art installations — Terry Allen has a decidedly modern sensibility that you may not expect if you only know his music.
Allen’s art carries an ephemeral quality that often echoes the yellow bleakness of West Texas, but it manages to avoid being literal or predictable. Terry Allen’s large format and excellent page design makes the artist’s work just a little bit more accessible, and a little less daunting as well. For someone whose work seems to be perpetually evolving, a catalogue like this one is far overdue.