Most bands don’t allow 30 years to lapse between a first single and a first LP.
Most bands don’t allow 30 years to lapse between a first single and a first LP. Then again, most bands aren’t Mudcrutch. A little background seems necessary: around 1970, Tom Petty and Tom Leadon left The Epics to put together something new. They recruited guitarist Mike Campbell, vocalist Jim Lenehan, and drummer Randall Marsh and before long were the it band in and around Gainesville, Florida. Keyboardist Benmont Tench joined the ranks, others left and by 1975 the group had relocated to Los Angeles, recorded a flop single for Shelter Records and broken up.
The core of the group went on to multiplatinum success with Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, wrote and recorded the soundtrack of your life. But Mudcrutch never really died. That aforementioned Shelter single, “Depot Street,” even appeared on the 1995 Heartbreakers’ boxed set Replay. In 2007, Petty invited Leadon and Marshall to jam with him, Campbell and Tench. In 2008, we had the first Mudcrutch album. Fans rejoiced. Critics raved. It was a band in which Petty was one member. Some hot-burnt shows followed and the group retreated from the semi-spotlight. Throughout the years, Petty said there’d be new music and now, eight years after that debut LP, we have Mudcrutch 2.
Just as the first album proved eclectic and loose, so goes this record. The opening “Trailer” is cut from the same cloth as Petty’s greatest hits. It’s true and wry and you know the guy he’s singing about whether you like him or not: he graduated high school, bought his love a trailer and can’t get unstuck. With its meditations on southern life and dreams deferred, it’s a song that wouldn’t be out of place on Southern Accents. “Dreams of Flying” is a tough rock that doesn’t give up its secrets. As with the best Petty songs, we’re not always sure what he’s saying but he sure does give us a lot to think about. “Beautiful Blue” is an extended, ‘70’s-style deep album cut with smart layers of production that recall both the early and latest records from The Heartbreakers.
There’s time to get into the same, crunchy psychedelic sounds that Neil Young mined at the dawn of the ‘70s via “Hope” and, as one might expect, some gorgeous balladry, namely “I Forgive It All,” which could have come from the Wildflowers session as surely as it could have come from Bob Dylan’s hand. “Hungry No More” allows the two worlds represented here to collide. The tender balladeer and the hard-drivin’, guitar-picking man cohabitate nicely in those six minutes and 14 seconds.
Other times, the boys stay close to the garage. “Beautiful World” could be the band’s first-ever song; it has an endearing tentativeness. “Welcome to Hell” seems designed to get the most reluctant folks out on the dance floor. “Victim of Circumstance” sounds like pals jamming for the first time, trying to come up with something that captures the magic of the records they love. Not one of those pieces is sharply refined or overly polished and not one of them would be smash hits, but they’re better for it. If Billboard and MTV aren’t hanging around, waiting on a band’s every move, maybe they’re more likely to get honest and have some fun. That’s the best that Mudcrutch has to offer. Who could want anything more?