When he died suddenly of a heart attack Nov. 18 in Taos, N.M., veteran Texas rocker/bluesman Doug Sahm had just finished recording his first country album.
The Return of Wayne Douglas, due for release on Tornado Records in June, reveals a serious run at preserving "real" country by the multifaceted roots-music man and Texas Tornados founder.
Sahm had intermittently played and recorded country music since emerging as a child-prodigy steel-guitar player in Texas and appearing with the likes of Hank Williams. But over the course of a long career, he'd also ventured into rock, achieving a commercial peak with the Sir Douglas Quintet on such tracks as "She's About a Mover" (1965) and "Mendocino" (1969).
Revisiting country music, Sahm formed Tornado Records with Warner Bros. executive Bill Bentley, and Sahm produced for the label the debut album by Ed Burleson, a traditional, young Texas country singer. Then Sahm put together a nucleus of songs for his own traditional country album.
Sahm decided to tag the disc The Return of Wayne Douglas Wayne Douglas being the stage name he sometimes used when playing country. Sahm enjoyed his multiple identities at one of his final shows, an album-release party for Burleson in Dallas, Sahm assembled a one-off country band he called the Phantom Playboys.
After Sahm's death, Bentley went ahead with finishing the album. "I'm still putting the final touches together for it," Bentley said. "Some of the new songs are still untitled, because Doug never wrote anything down."
One of the album tracks is a blisteringly funny attack on modern country called "Oh No, Not Another One," about pretty-boy "hat" acts in Nashville. "I can just hear George Jones covering that one," Bentley said.
Besides the new songs, the disc includes such reworked Sahm chestnuts as "Dallas Alice" and "Texas Me," and a liltingly beautiful country version of Bob Dylan's "Love Minus Zero/No Limit." Following a stone-country version of "There'll Never Be Another You," Sahm stops to talk about meeting the song's composer, the legendary blind country singer Leon Payne, when Sahm was a kid. The album ends with Sahm's quirky answering machine message Bentley's final tribute to his friend.