Power pop fans know Bobby Sutliff, dating back to the Windbreakers’ 1982 EP Meet The Windbreakers and extending to the present. Bobby’s facility at turning both ecstasy and heartbreak into tangible artifacts of comfort, and at soundtracking those emotions as personal cinema, is as profound as it comes. His songs have affected and enriched in so many ways, so it came as no surprise that when news of his near-fatal automobile accident last year reached the music community, the response was swift and succinct: time to give back to the artist.
Fellow Windbreaker Tim Lee sprang into action, accepting help from the cream of the crop in the power pop world to create a Bobby Sutliff tribute album Skrang, featuring Peter Holsapple (the dB’s), Tim Lee 3 (natch), Don Dixon, Velvet Crush (w/Matthew Sweet, no less), Matt Piucci of the Rain Parade, Bill Lloyd, Donovan’s Brain, Will Kimbrough, John Stirratt of Wilco, Russ Tolman from True West, the Long Ryders’ Tom Stevens—and a slew of other Sutliff compatriots and associates.
Rain Parade stepped up to perform together for the first time in 20 years, they’ll share the stage at The Earl on January 19th with Tim Lee 3 and The Head. As RP frontman Matt Piucci succinctly noted, “Our friend is badly hurt. We were asked to help. Here we come.”
Blurt editor Fred Mills compiled his thoughts for the album, articulating the importance of Sutliff and the context in which his music resonates. He wrote, “Patti Smith once told this writer that the artist’s role goes far beyond simply reflecting and commenting upon cultural events and trends. “Artists offer us a shoulder to lean on, an empathy,” she said. “Artists let us know that we’re not alone and that someone understands what we’re going through.”
I think of Smith’s comments now while listening to the tunes on Skrang, the Bobby Sutliff tribute album organized by his close friend (and erstwhile partner in Southern pop legends The Windbreakers) Tim Lee. Was there ever such a sensitive, penetrating—and yes, empathetic—song as Sutliff’s “That Stupid Idea,” originally on the Windbreakers’ classic LP from 1985, Terminal? Or “New Red Shoes” (also from Terminal), “I Thought You Knew” (At Home With Bobby & Tim, 1989) and “The Girl From Washington” (Electric Landlady, 1990)? Or solo Sutliff tracks like “Long Red Bottle of Wine” (2002’s Perfect Dream) and “Second Choice” (1987’s Only Ghosts Remain)?
These and numerous other Sutliff tunes have long resonated with me, for those very reasons and more—okay, I’m a sucker for a jangly guitar, an urgent-yet-tuneful vocal and a shimmering melody—and to hear them revisited and reinterpreted so delightfully by a talented cadre of Sutliff’s pals, peers and bandmates only reaffirms in my mind the man’s songwriting genius.
It’s all a labor of love, and with far more musical substance and emotional wallop than 99% of contemporary tribute albums, which typically bear the fingerprints of managers and labels looking more to pad their clients’ resumes than pay homage or discern aesthetic truths. In the final estimation, these musicians know, love and have worked with Bobby, and upon hearing the call, they stepped up to the plate.”
SKRANG RECORD RELEASE PARTY w/ RAIN PARADE, TIM LEE 3 and THE HEAD
Saturday, January 19th
The Earl, Atlanta, Ga.
Cover: $20 (available at http://www.badearl.com/)
488 Flat Shoals Ave., Atlanta, GA 30316
Skrang Track Listing:
1 Velvet Crush (w/Matthew Sweet) Second Choice
2 John Thomas Make a Fool Outta Me
3 John Stirratt (Wilco) Girl from Washington
4 Matt Piucci (Rain Parade) That Stupid Idea
5 Anderson Council Griffin Bay
6 Peter Holsapple (dB’s) Ballygrand
7 Will Kimbrough Off & On
8 David Minchew Change the Way
9 Bill Lloyd Same Way Tomorrow
10 Tom Stevens (Long Ryders) Bitter Fruit
11 Don Dixon New Red Shoes
12 Tim Lee 3 I Thought You Knew
13 Donovan’s Brain Oh Lorelei
14 Jeff Lewis Elam Bridge
15 Michael Carpenter Long Red Bottle of Wine
16 Kirk Swan (Dumptruck) From a Distance
17 Russ Tolman (True West) Devil & the Sea
18 Koenig’s Road Ghost Town
Skrang: Sounds Like Bobby Sutliff will be available at the Jan. 19 benefit in Atlanta. Afterwards, it will be available from the following:
Career Records – www.careerrecords.com/
Paisley Pop Records – www.paisleypop.com
Cool Dog Sound – www.timleethree.com