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SLIM DUNLAP (Buy CDs by this artist)
The Old New Me (Medium Cool/TwinTone) 1993
Times Like This (Medium Cool/TwinTone) 1996

Minneapolis guitarist Slim Dunlap was always a square peg in the Replacements. Arriving in 1987 to replace wildman Bob Stinson (who died in early '95), Dunlap was quiet, shy and reliable, a steady instrumental hand, not a raver. To all appearances, he contributed little beyond sideman skill to the group as it slouched toward Paul Westerberg's solo career. So it's a surprise to hear him rise to the occasion of his post-Mats debut with plenty of personality and a full-on collection of original rock songs.

Singing Exile-era Stones melodies in a pleasantly artless voice that could pass for Keith Richards on a good night, Dunlap chugs back raunch-a-roll energy with earnest effort and an invigorating dose of retro flair. Lyrically, he wavers between good-ol'-boy journeyman mundanity ("Rockin Here Tonight," "Just for the Hell of It," "The Ballad of the Opening Band"), roughed-up reflection ("Taken on the Chin," "Partners in Crime") and back-of-the-bar social navigation ("Ain't Exactly Good," which critiques a pal's musical efforts with poorly disguised disdain). Making no effort to claim any glory from his old group (although Westerberg does guest), Dunlap keeps things simple, modest and real, closing the door with an atmospheric 30-year-old James Burton guitar instrumental, "Love Lost." More please.

[Ira Robbins]