Texans don't get no respect. They're still struggling with the best-little-whorehouse-in-Luckenbach and J.R.-for-president jokes, while Los Angeles churns out Totos by the ton to resounding commercial success.
meanwhile, several distinct schools of Texas musicians are holding the fort against top-40 homogenization. The inheritors of the garage-band tradition, the black-blues bar bands, the white Southern boogie blasters, the last Western swingers and a handful of talented country/pop composers who can honestly claim title to the "outlaw" status have taken up spiritual, and most often physical, residence in the Lone Star state. And what instinct has brought together, let no discipline put asunder.
Delbert McClinton has been illuminating black-roots blues for more than 20 years. [His first record, a 1960 cover of Sonny Boy Williamson's "Wake Up, Baby," was the first record by a white singer ever played on KNOK-Ft. Worth]. He is one of the foremost interpreters of stright Howlin' Wolf-style blues; was in the vanguard of what is now generally called progressive country; is arguably the man who gave the harmonica its start in '60s rock 'n' roll (his licks on Bruce Channels' "Hey Baby" begat the Beatles' "Love Me Do") and unquestionably the patron saint of Ft. Worth honky-tonk boogie.
The good news is that the Washington-Charlottesville club axis has been one of his strongest audiences. The bad news is that -- like any number of really talented and persuasive musicians -- he's had the crown of cult success dubiously bestowed upon him. Even "Second Wind," one of 1979's most delightful and original releases, was commercially becalmed.
So finally McClinton has come to that great fork in the road. With Capricorn's collapse, he has moved to Capitol-EMI, and the change from small, personal label to corporate subdivision has trimmed the onetime "Keeper of the Flame." McClinton's new-label debut, "The Jealous Kind" (Capitol-EMI ST12115) promises to deliver him his first solid top-10 single, all right, but some of the thrill is gone.
"The Jealous Kind" was produced by Barry Beckett and the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, and Bonnie Bramlett supplies all the background vocals. These are all encouraging signs, but the clinker is on the inner label: There's not one McClinton composition in the bunch. Either Beckett or McClinton himself has begun to doubt his commercial attraction, and it's a cryin' shame. One of the reasons Second Wind" stands out is that half the songs on it are wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am McClintons.
There are strong moments on "Jealous Kins," notably the single, "Giving It Up for Your Love," and a smooth but sincere cover of Al Green's "Take Me to the River." But overall, it's too smooth. It's almost suave. Sexy, McClinton is ; suave, he ain't.
Over in San Antonio, Doug Sahm is still carrying his own torch for the days of the proto-punk garage bands. His latest release, "Border Wave" (Takoma TAK 7088) is straight tribute to style gone by. If you're an aficionado, you'll ove it. Otherwise, you may find it too predictable for repeated listening.
The one real hit from the Sir Douglas Quintet, "She's About a Mover," was a mainstay of every mid-'60s weekend combo. Like Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs and ? and the Mysterians, the SDQ leaned heavily to the three-chord progression with the electric-organ backbeat. They still do.
Doug Sahm has a lot of talent, but he's subverting it to a cause that he -- and most of his audience -- has outgrown. What was once simple and straightforward in rock 'n' roll now seems simple-minded. You can't go home again, even to Texas.