The Replacements, “Songs for Slim EP” (New West)

Just as they found common ground between punk and ’70s FM rock and left the underground without ever losing their basement roots, Minneapolis’s rock ’n’ roll anti-heroes the Replacements found a cool way to drop their first all-new collection in 23 years without looking like just another old band out for an easy paycheck or something to do. Which isn’t really a comment on the crucial fundraiser effort behind this five-song EP, but rather a critique of the breezy but brilliant music on it.

The first in a series of tribute/fundraiser releases for stroke-stricken ex-’Mats guitarist Slim Dunlap is available at A standard vinyl issue also lands April 16. Singer/guitarist Paul Westerberg and bassist Tommy Stinson (with Kevin Bowe on guitar and Peter Anderson on drums) are passing for the Replacements in this case, and pass the test they do.

There’s a vibrant live energy here that was missing in a lot of Westerberg’s solo albums of the ’00s. Dunlap’s sly spirit certainly seems to play a role, too, not only in the EP-opening cover of his sadly prophetic low-roller “Busted Up,” but also in the snark-attack version of Broadway’s “Everything’s Coming Up Roses,” which closes the disc.

The EP offers two more covers that could have come straight out of the band’s heyday live shows: Hank Williams’ “Lost Highway,” which they treat like bulldogs gnawing on a rib bone, and Gordon Lightfoot’s “I’m Not Saying,” handled with more rich nuance. Fitting right in is another Dunlap cover, “Radio Hook Word Hit,” recorded with gusto by original Replacements drummer Chris Mars. Sonically, the tracks recall the blasting melodic resonance of the ’Mats’ “Tim” era, and the overall tone is at once wild and bratty but also tender and heart-tugging. Classic Replacements, in other words.



The Mavericks, “In Time” (Valory)

From beginning to end of the Mavericks’ reunion album, the genre-busting band embodies the very best of the melting-pot experience that’s a fundamental component of the American character. Singer-songwriter Raul Malo and his Nashville-based compatriots draw freely, and joyously, from regional cultures spanning North and South America on a collection that will be hard to top as the year’s most scintillating pop music outing.

The party begins in the opening track, “Back in Your Arms Again.” A fat, twangy chord from an echo-drenched country guitar shares space with a lilting strummed Hawaiian uke, which are quickly joined by a peppery Tex-Mex keyboard and timbales that ride along as propulsive rhythm section jumps in. Then Malo’s soaring tenor arrives, bringing palpable romanticism to a tale about the sweetness of reunion that applies equally to the song’s romance-minded protagonist as his band’s own return to the spotlight.

The Mavericks perform April 3 at the Pantages Theatre in Minneapolis.

Randy Lewis, Los Angeles Times