When I was trying to find my feet in my early days of college in Chicago, The Replacements released the album Let It Be. It clicked with everything my misfit band friends and I had built our world around in high school, a spanking and snarky mishmash of The Clash, R.E.M., and Rockpile. (“I Will Dare” remains one of the greatest jangle-rock tunes of all time.) Then a sequence of remarkable albums followed – Tim and Pleased To Meet Me in 1985 and ‘87 respectively, securing Paul Westerberg and Co. as a North Star and a midwestern steak dinner of quality rock and roll.
I played bass pretty seriously then, so I connected powerfully to the Replacements’ punchy, articulate low parts, though I couldn’t have told you then who it was laying those lines down. Now I know it was Tommy Stinson, younger half-brother of band founder Bob Stinson. I also now know that as I rocked out to “Alex Chilton” and “Kiss Me On The Bus” I was listening to a bass player almost exactly the same age as I was. I think that would have struck me as impossible or inspiring at the time. I’m glad I know now. And I’m glad I got to speak with Tommy Stinson on the eve of his appearance at Roots on the Rivers and the concurrent release of his latest project, the album Wronger by Cowboys In The Campfire.
It may seem mildly surprising that a guy who made famous punk/pop out of Minneapolis would, years later, be releasing a twangy album with a run of appearances in Music City (Grimey’s and a house concert on Friday before Saturday’s sundown 7:25 set for WMOT). But Stinson’s resume is aggressively diverse and adventuresome. To quote his concise bio, besides a decade with The Replacements (plus a brief reunion in the 2010s), “he was a key second-generation ingredient in Guns N’ Roses and served a seven-year tenure with Soul Asylum. He also led two essential bands of his own — the aptly named Bash & Pop and Perfect — appeared on recordings by the Old 97’s, MOTH and BT and played bass on the Rock Remix of Puff Daddy’s ‘It’s All About the Benjamins.’”