Songs for Slim: Rockin' Here Tonight: A Benefit Compilation for Slim Dunlap
Bob "Slim" Dunlap was a longtime fixture on the Minneapolis rock scene, playing with the band Spooks and backing local hero Curtiss A, before he was invited to join the Replacements in 1987 after the departure of Bob Stinson and began earning some well-deserved recognition outside his hometown. After the Replacements broke up, Dunlap cut a pair of terrific solo albums -- 1993's The Old New Me and 1996's Times Like This -- that didn't sell well but rank with the very best recorded work from a former member of the 'Mats, and revealed that Dunlap was a sharp, witty songwriter with a big heart and an eye for life's little details. In February 2012, Dunlap suffered a severe stroke that has left him unable to play music and in need of constant medical care; a group of friends and admirers stepped up to release a series of limited-edition vinyl singles and EPs to raise money for Dunlap's expenses, and Songs for Slim: Rockin' Here Tonight features the cream of these benefit releases in digital format, along with a bonus disc of unreleased performances. Dunlap wrote 25 of the 28 tracks here, and one of the best things about this collection is that it gives his songs a richly deserved wider hearing than they received in the past; it's hard not to be impressed by Dunlap's way with a tune, his lyrics that offer a regular guy's take on the ups and downs of life and love, and his ability to sound clever and down to earth at the same time, and a few of these tunes could have improved the overall quality of the Replacements' Don't Tell a Soul or All Shook Down. Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson reunited as the 'Mats for the first Songs for Slim benefit EP, and their cover of "Busted Up" kicks off this sampler in sloppy but solid fashion, while former drummer Chris Mars contributes his one-man band version of "Radio Hook Word Hit" as well as an original tune about Dunlap, "When I Fall Down." Elsewhere, an impressive collection of roots rock heroes (Jeff Tweedy, Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams, Patterson Hood) and Minneapolis legends (Curtiss A with the Young Fresh Fellows, the Suicide Commandos with Frank Black on vocals) takes on Dunlap's tunes and just about everyone on board hits a bull's-eye, finding the heart and the attitude that lurk in Slim's music. Rockin' Here Tonight will hopefully raise some much-needed cash for a journeyman musician in need, but just as importantly, these performances show that Dunlap was more than just another guy with a guitar -- he's a first-rate songwriter, and it's a pleasure to hear a handful of similarly gifted tunesmiths find so many worthwhile things in his work.