Album Review

Tim Lee - All That Stuff

Tim Lee - All That Stuff

Tim Lee was half of the Windbreakers, a Mississippi-based duo who released seven raggedly charming records in the '80s and early '90s. Lee and partner Bobby Sutliff's main gift was their ability to reveal, within a hook-laden pop framework, a welcome edginess when things threatened to get too bouncy. The most frequent result was pop music with both brains and teeth, and in their own unassuming way, the Windbreakers helped clear the way for the melodic dirt-road pop of folks like Freedy Johnston. The 32 tracks on All That Stuff include 12 cuts from Lee's two solo releases, five Windbreakers album tracks, random demos and B-sides, and a half-dozen new songs. Despite the occasional wanderings such as a Joe Jackson-ish take on ex-Soft Boy Kimberly Rew's "Don't Take Her Out Of My World" and the gritty folk of "Eager to Please", categorizers will want to put most of the resurrected material in the "rugged pop" bin. The mid-'80s stuff especially portrays Lee as less shimmery kin to Big Star and the dB's, maybe the Southern second cousin of Miracle Legion. However, Lee's new songs (they were recorded in '93, but they're new to most of the outside world) show him heading in a rootsier direction, with some help from a few fellow Mississipians. Current Wilco guy and ex-Hilltops member John Stirratt lends bass and backing vocals to two tunes, while Blue Mountain's Cary Hudson and Laurie Stirratt guest on a stripped-down version of Hudson's weed ode "Mary Jane" from the Hilltops' Big Black River disc. The best of the rookies is "Hindsight Is 20/20", a bittersweet re-examination of a relationship ("That time we went to Vicksburg looking for some Civil War news/And that trip we made to New Orleans where you taught me about the blues"), with the look back failing to provide the payoff promised by the title. At 32 songs (including the nifty instrumental ghost tracks that cap each disc) for a mere 12 bucks, this career-spanning collection is a steal.