During an interview last year, Paul Westerberg mentioned that Keith Richards had relayed an encouraging message to him through a mutual contact. Westerberg reasoned that if someone like Richards appreciated his work, it didn't matter how many records he sold.

With that in mind, Richards' sway over the former Replacements leader has never been as forceful as it is on Westerberg's new Come Feel Me Tremble, his fifth solo album (not counting three releases by his ill-mannered alter-ego, Grandpa Boy). Basically, Come Feel suggests what a Richards solo album would be like if Keith could sing worth a damn and/or pen a clever turn of phrase.

Playing all the instruments himself, Westerberg has emerged as a one-man Minnesota answer to the Stones and Faces, firing off meaty guitar riffs at will. Right off the bat, he announces, "I'm a dirty diesel/ pumping down the line," and he spends the rest of the album proving it. Westerberg has found a second wind

CD Spotlight

Come Feel Me Tremble
Paul Westerberg

Dead Man Shake
Grandpa Boy
(Fat Possum)
as an artist because he finally realized (roughly around his 40th birthday) that he was never going to be a mega-platinum artist, so there was no point in tailoring his sound to unresponsive radio programmers. On Come Feel - as on last year's Stereo and Mono - he sounds liberated by his own commercial failures.

There isn't a truly great song here - nothing that will make you forget "Bastards of Young" or "The Ledge," anyway - but the record builds a casual, off-the-cuff momentum, with hard-nosed rockers like "Making Me Go" and "Soldier of Misfortune."

Now that Westerberg has regained his joie de vivre, there's little excuse for his Grandpa Boy side project. Under his own name, Westerberg is plenty loose, so is there really a need for an alter ego who seems to be learning the tunes as he records them? Sloppier, sillier and bluesier than Come Feel, Grandpa Boy's Dead Man Shake occasionally comes on like a crankier, middle-aged version of the Mats' The Shit Hits the Fans, catching fire only on the raucous stomper "Get a Move On" and an oddly moving version of Anthony Newley's camp classic "What Kind of Fool Am I?"

On Come Feel, Westerberg makes an art out of the throwaway, but Dead Man makes a throwaway out of his art. •

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