Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Tommy Stinson - One Man Mutiny (Done to Death Music)
A working musician since the age of thirteen, Tommy Stinson grew up in rock ‘n’ roll. Incredibly, at least for those of us who remember him as the irreverent punk who played bass in the Replacements, Stinson is now a forty-five year old man.
And still very much a working musician. Having watched his brother Bob (Replacements guitarist) and his band self-destruct prepared Stinson for almost anything. How else to explain his having been employed by Axl Rose since 1998 in whatever Axl considers Guns ‘n Roses.
Best known as a sideman, Stinson has a long history as bandleader and solo performer. Between 1992 and 1994 he helmed an outfit called Bash and Pop, whose lone recording Friday Night is Killing Me was a sweet surprise to many ‘Mats fans who figured Paul Westerberg was the only real songwriting talent in the Replacements. Friday was full of rough, but right performances in a loose Faces-Stones idiom and songs sturdy and impassioned enough to stand up to their archetypal moorings.
Stinson’s next outfit Perfect wasn’t. They somehow lacked the immediacy of Friday Night at its best. Honestly, I missed his first truly solo release, Village Gorilla Head, in 2004. Given that I work in the industry and scarcely knew of the album tells you plenty about its lack of distribution and publicity.
Stinson’s newest collection is called One Man Mutiny. It’s a decidedly mixed bag. Stinson’s rock sensibilities remain rooted in the basics of the Rolling Stones and the Faces. “Don’t Deserve You” is an appealing dirty stomp reminiscent of Ronnie Lane. “It’s a Drag” leans more toward the Stones, Emily Roberts supplying, as she does throughout, some fine backing vocals. “Meant to Be” sounds like an Americanized Noel Gallagher; Chris Roberts supplying some excellent George Harrison-esque slide work. Tracks like “Meant” and “All This Way for Nothing” feature understated, rough hewn, but supple melodies. “Destroy Me” has the depth to resemble a vintage Stones ballad, while the title track is Stinson’s take on a “Positively Fourth Street” theme. When, as he does here, Stinson combines a good tune with a committed vocal it’s a bit of a tease. You get a strong sense of exactly how good he can be.
The not so good news? Stinson’s attempts at countrified material, songs like “Zero to Stupid” and “Match Made in Hell” are simply facile, lacking the depth of classic country singing or the arch and audacious parody of Stones’ nuggets like “Faraway Eyes.” “Come to Hide” might have been a charmer if Stinson had emphasized his vocal and acoustic guitar, but the superfluous synthesizer programming is simply distracting.
One Man Mutiny won’t change most peoples’ perception of Tommy Stinson. I would be shocked if it found much of an audience beyond that he’s already cultivated. But for fans of his Richards-Wood drenched rock ‘n’ roll it’s a welcome collection. With Paul Westerberg in semi-retirement, One Man Mutiny is a sweet reminder of the Replacements’ shaggy-dog brand of rock ‘n’ roll.