Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Tom Petty 20: Mudcrutch 2

In a nearly 40-year career, Tom Petty has released only three so-called solo albums. All three had plenty of input from Mike Campbell, and less so from Benmont Tench, the only Heartbreakers to appear in every version of that band. So what of Mudcrutch, the earlier version of the same guys, now “reunited” for the second time? They’re still no that different from the Heartbreakers, except that there’s another lead guitarist, and Petty makes up half of the rhythm section with a different drummer. Even the handful of songs sung by other people doesn’t make 2 any less of a Tom Petty album.
To begin with, “Trailer” was one of the catalysts that led to the Southern Accents album before he let it go the way of psychedelics and horn sections. It did make it out as a B-side, and was included on the Playback box; 31 years later it’s gained an extra verse, but it’s still the same song, and a good one. “Dreams Of Flying” is classic Heartbreakers except that Randall Marsh doesn’t play fills either. Is that a backwards solo at the end? Slow and mysterious, “Beautiful Blue” gets gentle slide guitar touches and even a nice piano solo during one of the breaks. Something of an unspoken rule is broken by following it with a similar title. At this late date, a band on a major label should also never open a song with “woke up this morning”, but that’s why most bands don’t let the drummer write songs. That lyric aside, “Beautiful World” is undeniably catchy. Tom comes back to sing “I Forgive It All”, one of the prettiest, softest songs he’s done in a while.
The second half of the album alternates between songwriters, and some tracks even segue. Tom Leadon offers up “The Other Side Of The Mountain”, a near-hoedown, with rough harmonies and banjo from bluegrass legend Herb Pedersen. For a switch, “Hope” is a snotty garage rock song, complete with cheesy organ and fuzz guitar. Benmont contributes “Welcome To Hell”, which seesaws between barrelhouse piano and a mildly psychedelic bridge. “Save Your Water” is kinda wordy for Tom, attached to a very Byrdsy backing. Mike Campbell has sung lead on only one album, and now he’s got another in “Victim Of Circumstance”; once again, it might as well be a Petty tune. After an atmospheric transition, “Hungry No More” is the other big number, stretched to over six minutes, but with good harmonies (Herb Pedersen again) and a killer Campbell solo.
2 sounds much more planned than the first Mudcrutch album, and it’s better. It’s also shorter, which helps. Mostly it’s great to hear Petty write and sing breezy songs again.

Mudcrutch 2 (2016)—

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