Son Volt’s new album, Day Of The Doug, revisits the music of legendary Texas troubadour Doug Sahm, but it’s much more than just fond remembrance and colorful tribute.
Son Volt's Day Of The Doug is a summoning and a celebration of a songwriter and performer whose work forged country, Tex-Mex, rock, rhythm and blues, folk, and psychedelia into an utterly unique American sound. Sahm’s 50-year career was a restless and relentless quest for the Holy Grail of “the groove.” He played pedal steel with Hank Williams, Sr. as a kid before making three Top 40 hits with the Sir Douglas Quintet and recording a dizzying array of solo works with a passel of shifting personas on a carousel of record labels. Son Volt’s eleventh release since 1995’s Trace steps confidently on the trails Sahm blazed. Like any journey to find a grail, Day Of The Doug also seeks out all the things that make young artists fall in love with making music in the first place: adventure, youth novelty, and a chance to snatch a bit of immortality.
“It's like reconnecting with a hero,” says Son Volt founder Jay Farrar. “And getting back to the same kind of perspective I had when I was starting out as a younger musician. I think it's just important to step back from what you normally do. Take stock. Take inspiration. And see where it leads from there.”
Where the path leads Son Volt on its new record is to an ebullient exploration of Doug Sahm’s universe. It’s a sweetly jaunty landscape even bigger than Texas, where the skies are sunny, the women are dynamite, and the barbecue pit lends its hickory odor to an endless party where everyone’s welcome and the beer is cheap. Ripples of keyboard, fiddle, and pedal steel suggest the array of sonic textures found on Sahm’s recorded work, but the foundation for each interpretation is Son Volt’s own potent blend of rock, folk, and country. And the current Son Volt lineup surrounding Farrar – Andrew DuPlantis (vocals, bass), Mark Spencer (backing vocals, keyboard, guitar), John Horton (guitar, slide guitar, baritone, bass), and Mark Patterson (drums, percussion) – brings its distilled craft and savvy energy to every note of Day Of The Doug.
In 2020, Son Volt planned to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their seminal album Trace with a tour that played the album from top to bottom. The pandemic had other plans. Flash forward to 2023 and they are on the road with a setlist that features Trace from beginning to end, an homage to Doug Sahm (Sir Douglas Quintet, Texas Tornados), and a celebration of 28 years of Son Volt.