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Slim Dunlap – My New Old Records

February 1, 2018

New West Records NW5 102 (double Vinyl LP)

This re-release marks the first appearance on vinyl of Slim Dunlap’s brace of solo LPs from the mid-90s. Slim was recruited by the Replacements to take over from original lead guitarist Bob Stinson – his real name is Bob Dunlap, but they couldn’t handle going from one Bob to another Bob so they reverted to the childhood nickname of Slim. Before that he was a journeyman Minneapolis musician who was known and liked by everyone.

Solo albums. Usually disappointing and rarely a patch on the albums made as a band. For some reasons guitarists seem to make better solo LPs than lead singers. So Keith Richards yes, Mick Jagger no. Ron Wood yes, Rod Stewart no. Phil Manzanera yes, Bryan Ferry no. Why this should be I have absolutely no idea. Anyway these records work better than 90% of Paul Westerberg’s solo stuff. Slim is now very ill and his label manager – the estimable Peter Jesperson – has arranged for them to be released to raise money for Slim’s medical bills.  The results are a labour of love –  thick vinyl, a poster, a 7” spider, guitar pick, affectionate sleeve notes from Slim’s drummer Brien Lilja. More about this and related releases at songsforslim.com

The Old New Me (1993) represented Slim’s debut recordings. The sound is glorious, barely produced, the sound of a band playing live (even if they weren’t) and in perfect balance. Slim underplays throughout with consummate taste – even when he lets rip on James Burton’s Love Lost it is all done with care and precision. The songs have great hooks which don’t need a “big” production to register whilst the lyrics manage to be rueful without being cynical, especially on The Ballad Of The Opening Band which has to be autobiographical. The opening double header of Rocking Here Tonight and Just For The Hell Of It form a swaggering statement of intent which rolls as much as it rocks.  If you enjoyed Keith Richards Talk Is Cheap, give this a try.

The second LP “Times Like These” came out in 1996. Slim experiments a bit more musically and lyrically on Chrome Lipstick and Jungle Out There but his commitment to catchy melodies and lyrical grace remains unwavering. Radio Hook Word Hit explains why such a thing is so difficult to achieve but the country-tinged title track brings it all back home. Paul Westerberg guests inaudibly (as he did on The Old New Me). Production is credited to “anyone handy”

Bob Mehr’s book ‘Trouble Boys’ made it clear that Slim had to really practice to sound this good. These records ooze love and commitment. They never sold much the first time around, it would be a fitting tribute to a lovely guy if they sold a few more copies now. Just as I was writing this review I noticed that in the poster of Slim onstage his Marshall amp has been clumsily modified to read Mats. Somehow that sums him up – committed, unpretentious and someone to whom music was a calling rather than a career.

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One Comment
  1. I love both of these records. I turned my dad on to Slim a couple of decades back and even got him to go see Slim open up for Son Volt here in Louisville. A very “Stonesy” vibe going on with “Old New Me” for sure. I particularly enjoy the little psychedelic moments on “Times Like These”. I really wish Slim weren’t in such bad shape. He is one helluva dude and a true gentleman.

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