One Track Mind: Paul Westerberg, "My Road Now" (2012)

There can’t be any better way, really, for a suddenly unveiled track from Paul Westerberg to begin than with a false start, followed by the erstwhile Replacements leader blurting out: “Fuck me.”

It makes the opening of “My Road Now,” whatever comes next, like catnip for long-time fans. The good news is, there’s much to recommend about the rest of this almost serendipitously casual track, released today without advance warning.

Westerberg then settles into a lonesome verse, the story of broken kid who gets pushed around too much, that — aside from his lovely piano accompaniment — might have fit on any of the old ‘Mats records. Of course, back then, Westerberg would have howled the verse (“This is my road now and you can hit it, baby!”) like a dog with his tail caught in the screen door, whereas now he offers it in a heart-rending, gravel-gargling croon.

But — hold on, now — there may still be some of that shaggy-haired, 1980s-era fire left in the old man. Toward the end, Westerberg gets peevy again, adding: “hit it like it owes you a whole lot of money!,” before stopping short and saying: “Alright, I got through one,” and the recording ends.

Westerberg hasn’t exactly been prolific lately — his last solo album was back in, what? 2009? — so, obviously loyalists might be just as happy with even table scraps. That “My Road Now” does such a good job of recalling everything we’ve always loved about Westerberg makes this track an even bigger treat.

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Here’s a look back at our recent thoughts on Paul Westerberg and the Replacements. Click through the titles for complete reviews …

PAUL WESTERBERG – OPEN SEASON (2006): There’s something really worrisome when you hear that any highly regarded artist is doing the soundtrack for a kid’s movie. It conjures images of Sting and Phil Collins destroying their careers and what little credibility they had left. But, you know, Paul Westerberg. I mean, come on. The Replacements? How could he ever sink to those levels? Surely a soundtrack crafted by him couldn’t possibly be that bad, not Sting-bad or Phil Collins-bad, right? But seeing a title like “The Right To Arm Bears” doesn’t help much. However, my wife, the Replacements/Westerberg fan, reports that it’s actually not bad and doesn’t stray too far from Westerberg’s typical solo sound, so there you go.

ROOTS ROCKER SHERMAN EWING REMEMBERS LEGENDARY REPLACEMENTS SHOW: Oh, Westerberg was my hero! I saw those guys at The Ritz, two nights in a row. The first night, they were recording live on the radio and all the record execs were there. Bobby Stinson came out in his underwear; he could barely walk. He threw a six pack into the audience! (Laughs uproariously.) They played (Black Sabbath’s) “Iron Man,” and “Ben” by the Jackson Five. They stopped half way, right in the middle of the song, and then played it again. Then they played two more — and walked off. The next day, with all the radio and record people gone, they came out and just ripped it. They played a show that you’ll never forget. A crazy bunch.

ON SECOND THOUGHT: THE REPLACEMENTS – DON’T TELL A SOUL (1989): It was, I suppose, inevitable that this legendarily ragged, don’t-give-a-crap band would eventually update its post-punk image, one that almost sunk the Replacements — and eventually led to the, well, replacement of guitarist Bob Stinson with Slim Dunlap. Paying to see a band — no matter their charming, raw genius on songs like “Shutup,” “Dope Smokin’ Moron,” “Bastards of Young” and “Shiftless When Idle” — only to find them boozy, then violently ill on stage will lose its hipster edge as the guys get older. Happily, lead screamer/guitarist Paul Westerberg, by the time Don’t Tell A Soul debuted, was beginning to plumb a new depth to his songwriting. Unhappily, as the band moved on from trying to fashion art out of chaos, it imploded.

Nick DeRiso

Over a 30-year career, Nick DeRiso has also explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz, Ultimate Classic Rock and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.