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Monday, June 30, 2008

Mudcrutch

Mudcrutch (Reprise)

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  The surprise, thrown-together reunion of Tom Petty's teenage band, Mudcrutch, unveils its full fruits here, with liner notes boasting, “made in 10 days, no headphones, Los Angeles… A lot of love.” While that says it all musically, the release also ends a widely misconstrued notion that the rocker was entering retirement, and offers his legion of fans a driving soundtrack for '08.

  With Heartbreakers stalwarts Mike Campbell on guitar and Benmont Tench on keys, there’s a bit more country than usual, but also a lot of familiarity. Example: “Scare Easy,” a simple (how has he not written this before?) swampy rocker with Tench's subdued haunted-house keys providing underlying dread. Petty's voice, as from-the-hip and defiant as ever, snidely triumphs. With dark renegade boasts and a disarming rhyme scheme, it's another scene from the highlight reel of his catalog—both a champion and an underdog, the "loser at the top of my game," as Petty puts it here. Self-reliantly bold, edgy and maybe just a bit pissed off, “Scare Easy” becomes the perfect 30-year-later B-Side to "I Won't Back Down” and typifies what is in essence a new Petty album.

  After all, Campbell and Tench have provided the backbone of the Heartbreakers' sound all these years. Petty lets everyone share the spotlight (thankfully on Tench's “This Is a Good Street,” unfortunately on guitarist Tom Leadon's “Queen of the Go-Go Girls”). From the Katrina country dirge “Orphan of the Storm,” to the Roger McGuinn-penned steering-wheel-pounder “Lover of the Bayou,” to the barn-burning “Six Days on the Road,” this is the good-ol' high-school boys from Gainesville getting good-timey, loose and shit-kicking.

  Tom Petty performs at the Marcus Amphitheater at Summerfest on July 5.