This post is dedicated to my Texan pal Zach Jones, who, like Doug Sahm, has always been playfully aware of the stigmas that people hold against Texas, but through playful admonishment and sincere pride always tends to turn these stereotypes around and instead represent Texas as a place of strong convictions, values, and fun.
It is this sort of self-awareness that Doug Sahm uses to his advantage in all of his running work, especially in this 1974 release, Groover's Paradise. Sahm plays on your typical western topics, especially in tunes like "Houston Chicks" and "Beautiful Texas Sunshine", but never drags them out to the cheesy extent that most modern country stars do, essentially providing the stigma to most music fans that country music is a genre of gimmicks lacking any substance. No, Doug Sahm does quite the opposite. He plays with the cards of his aforementioned state, but in a way that makes them real, even at sometimes tender.
A part of the success of Sahm's work certainly revolves around his ability to blow the doors down in any genre arena he attempts. People call his style "Tex-mex", but I'd understand that as being a term used because they have no idea how in the hell to briefly classify his style otherwise. So props to the original Texas groover for that. The album opens appropriately with the self-titled track, "Groover's Paradise", which exemplifies the jangly influence the members Doug Clifford and Stu Cook of Creedence Clearwater Revival left on Sahm with their studio involvement on this record. These guys allowed for a coherent sounding band, having a great time, unlike the feel of his first solo record, Doug Sahm and Band, which sounds like Doug Sahm just messing around with a bunch of hired guns. This opening track is the anthem and single that sets the theme for the whole album: being a groovin' stoner in Texas is an incredible time, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
The second track, "Devil Heart" continues to throw listeners for a loop, with a chugging riff, almost Allman Brothers-esque, that never really builds up beyond a feel-good chorus, which is fine and dandy with me. It's hypnotic and shows that with CCR's rhythm section, Sahm can lay down a really bluesy cut. Following this blues is "Houston Chicks", a sweet autobiographical love song paying homage to the lovely ladies he's made memories with in Houston.
"For The Sake of Rock n Roll" is the kind of song that got me initially interested in Doug Sahm. Lyrics that would at first come off as tongue-in-cheek become genuine once you realize how seriously Sahm valued Rock n roll in his life, almost to the point where he'd sacrifice anything to uphold the joys of the lifestyle. "Just Groove Me" plays out in a similar manner, as Sahm offers that he'll "love you to the sky" if you'll just groove him. He doesn't ask for much here people!
Good lord, "Girls Today (Don't Like To Sleep Alone)" might be one of the most style-defining songs Sahm's ever released. I cannot help but smile as Sahm sings this most socially incorrect song, it's sung too sincerely to get angry with, and so naturally I just take his side on it. He croons, "So if you got someone who loves you, go ahead and try to be yourself," a lyric that is so harshly honest to the situation a sheepish male may find himself in.
As I said before, part of Sahm's success lies in that he can look toward his roots with pride, and with a cover of the Mexican standard "La Cacahuata", meaning "the peanut", he shows that he can in so goofy a manner that it actually works perfectly for the album. I've always had a personal nostalgic relationship with this song as well because it sounds identically like this crummy instrumental tune that came on daily when Will and I spent a month down in Central America.
The album ends with what I believe is the greatest country song ever written, "Catch Me In the Morning". Beginning in a hard place, Sahm tells us "the keg was hard on his head last night" and that he naturally said some things that he now regrets. He's speaking of the problems that every cowboy's gotta deal with, but with the driving chorus chant of "Catch Me In the Morning", it is all about the hope that rests in the light of the morning after. The very un-country driving chord changes that take the slow-groovin' verse for such a wild spin make this the perfect album closer. He's made mistakes, but he looks at the future as a place for forgiveness and redemption. He doesn't seem to ever learn from the hardships that befall a groovin' Texas cowboy, but the purity he links with the morning after make the good balance out the bad, for such is life.