Reprise, 2016


REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


The fact that Mudcrutch named their sophomore album 2 tells you everything you need to know about this band. This album looks and sounds—and is named—like exactly what it is: a group of old pals getting together in the studio, kidding around, needling each other and having a good time, without a single solitary thought about anything beyond having that experience. These guys seriously, sincerely, just wanna play.

And play they can. Mudcrutch, the decades-later-reunited precursor band to Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, features three-fifths of the latter group in Petty (who plays bass here), guitarist Mike Campbell and keyboardist Benmont Tench, with Tom Leadon (guitar) and Randy Marsh (drums) finishing out the lineup. The group had such a good time making their 2008 debut—which appeared a mere 38 years after the band first formed in 1970, when Petty was just 17—that they reconvened in 2016 to do it again.

The first thing that becomes apparent is that this unit is looser and more democratic than The Heartbreakers, a group that was formed specifically to serve a vehicle for Petty’s songwriting. Mudcrutch, by contrast, features each of the five guys writing and singing, though Petty still gets the majority of the writing credits and lead vocals.

A lot of Petty’s songs here have a somewhat loping cadence that remind of his other friendly musical collective the Traveling Wilburys, and in fact the Dylan influence that crept into TP’s vocals during that period is also evident. But the vocals on this album are notable for other reasons, too… When Tench and Campbell step up to the mic to sing their numbers it’s hard not to chuckle just a little; their voices are their own, with different timbre and texture than TP’s, but their phrasing and even their cadence are dead giveaways that these two have spent more than half their lifetimes singing harmonies for Tom Petty.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Kickoff cut “Trailer” is a steady-on rocker offering a view into the life of a classic Petty character, a trailer park romantic, and a couple of typically tight Campbell solos. TP’s “Dreams Of Flying” and “Beautiful Blue” deliver very Heartbreakers-y jangle, both with Leadon featured on harmonies. The latter is a very pretty love song with a nice lilt and a gorgeous, extended solo that veers into George Harrison “weeping” territory.

Marsh takes the lead vocal on his tune “Beautiful World,” an interesting amalgam that has a ’90s alt-rock feel on the verses, before it goes full Wilbury on the chorus. TP returns for an acoustic contemplation on “I Forgive It All” before Leadon takes his turn with his country rock number “The Other Side Of The Mountain,” featuring Herb Pedersen on banjo and harmony vocals.

Petty’s stomper “Hope” goes full retro with Tench delivering Ray Manzarek ’67 organ tones while Campbell nails a similarly-fuzzed out vibe on lead guitar. If it wasn’t a party yet, “Welcome To Hell” gets us all the way in the door as Tench takes his turn fronting the group. His Zombies ’65-ish organ dominates what feels like a lost British Invasion number, a distant cousin of “Monster Mash” that the band—Campbell in particular—has an absolute blast with.

Petty’s lilting “Save Your Water” passes a comfortable, Wilburyesque 3:11 before Campbell’s “Victim Of Circumstance” plows in with a classic early-’60s greasy roadhouse rock feel. The album closes with an extended take on Petty’s “Hungry No More,” a stately statement song about asserting yourself and going after what you need. Campbell gets room to stretch out on the solo here in a way he rarely did in the Heartbreakers before their final two albums.

The production team here is Petty’s late-career brain trust of himself, Campbell and Ryan Ulyate, and they get just what they were after: punchy, entertaining music that’s animated by the sheer joy of playing. If we’re honest, there’s nothing extra special or essential about the songs on 2; this album is just a good time, for the players as much as the audience… and sometimes, that’s all you need.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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