Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Tom Petty 16: Mudcrutch

Long story short: Mudcrutch presents a “reunion” of the band that got Tom Petty et al to Hollywood in the first place, leading to the formation of the Heartbreakers. The 21st century version of the band was poised as a democracy, but for all intents and purposes, this is still a Tom Petty album. It’s even got Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench along to entice the wary. (It’s unknown whether any of the original Petty compositions on this album date from those early days; the covers were probably regular set fixtures.)
The overall feel is “loose”, a sound directly connected to Clarence White-era Byrds—complete with a faithful cover of “Lover Of The Bayou” and an Appalachian take on “Shady Grove”—and The Flying Burrito Brothers, who famously covered “Six Days On The Road” and for a time featured Bernie Leadon, later of the Eagles and the brother of Tom Leadon, the other guitarist featured here. Two covers, one an instrumental, showcase playing over lyrics, and Benmont even gets to sing one of his own. “Scare Easy” and “The Wrong Thing To Do” could have fit on any Petty album, and “Orphan Of The Storm” is a subtle nod to the Katrina situation. In a pleasant surprise, the most successful track is the nine-minute “Crystal River”, which somehow never drags.
It’s more relaxed than his previous album, a one-man-band project and one of the more underwhelming albums of 2006. Unfortunately, Petty’s voice, which has always been an acquired taste, seems more nasal and tired than ever. Its redneck tone works on some of the character songs, but the yell that carried such classics as Damn The Torpedoes and Hard Promises is sorely missed. What a drag it is getting old. While Petty’s best work may be behind him, he’s still a master of getting so much out of the usual chords, and therefore worth the attention.

Mudcrutch Mudcrutch (2008)—3

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