Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Silver Lining

Soul Asylum are long time veterans of the Minneapolis music scene. Formed in 1981 from the ashes of Loud Fast Rules, Dave Pirner, Dan Murphy, Karl Mueller and Grant Young rose quickly to local prominence. They were part of a vibrant scene - their peers were Hüsker Dü and The Replacements and The Suburbs and Prince and The Time and you get the idea. The music started out as garage-y indie rock mixed with the occasional punk riff and evolved into kinder, gentler alternative rock with a touch of that Midwest heartland flavor. They rose to national prominence in 1992 with the album Grave Dancers Union and it's hit singles Black Gold and Runaway Train. I was never much of a fan. I liked a few songs here and there, and often saw the guys around town a lot at different shows and bars.

Then I started dating this chick who was a huge fan. She had the records, went to the shows, had a crush on Dave Pirner, the whole thing. Grave Dancers Union came out early on in our relationship and she had the album poster on the wall of her room. I'm sure you can guess that I quickly developed a better appreciation for the band. She is still my partner, married 12 years now. Her rabid fan days have faded, but she still likes 'em.

Time was not so kind to Soul Asylum. The follow up album had some minor success, but sales got progressively lower over the years. There were line up changes - mostly new drummers - and label changes, and then last year while recording their new album bassist Karl Mueller sadly passed away after fighting throat cancer for two years. This year has seen the core duo of Dave and Dan regroup with a new rhythm session, and to me this is where the story gets interesting. The new drummer is Michael Bland, a local legend who best known for his 7 year stint in Prince's New Power Generation. He's also done drum sessions for the Dixie Chicks, Mandy Moore and Backstreet Boys (!). He is a great drummer. Their new bassist is Tommy Stinson. Yes, the former Replacement and Guns'n'Roses axe-for-hire has hooked up with his old high school buddies. It is a great rock'n'roll story, even if you are like me - not a huge fan. The guys do sound reinvigorated, and the record is a tribute to the memory of Karl - the last thing he recorded. It will be released in the US on July 11th on Legacy Records. The first single is titled, appropriately enough, Stand Up And be Strong. You can listen to more songs (and watch video) from the LP at their myspace page as well as at A classic rock story of rise and fall, of reinvigoration and redemption.

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