The Petty Archives

CD Reviews
Review by Sean Manning
The Daily Californian - Thursday, August 10, 2006

Tom Petty | HIGHWAY COMPANION | [American]
He may be a southern boy, but Tom Petty’s music has always been easy for Californians to call their own. From his instantly recognizable dude-drawl to his commanding yap, Petty’s voice is one for the beaches of Santa Monica, San Diego and anywhere else with a coast and a little golden sunshine. Now, with Highway Companion, Petty’s third solo album, the Gainseville, FL-born singer seems set to take his conquest of the Golden State inward—to the Interstate 5.

And as car music goes, Highway Companion can hold its own in the ranks of Petty’s catalogue. Things start off promisingly with “Saving Grace,” a slice of roadhouse blues that, by the chorus, becomes trademark Petty, with full harmonies and a sing-along chorus. But surprisingly, most of the album finds Petty turning away from familiar blues riffs and embracing sunkissed acoustic pop, much like his solo effort Wildflowers.

On “Jack,” Petty layers multiple tracks of his voice to create a soft but intriguing melody, and on “Big Weekend,” he slurs his way all the way into the Dylansphere.

And while the album’s concept may be a simple one, Petty gives an ode to every conceivable event of a long drive, save a busted tire. It’s also got another good thing going for it—nobody really dislikes Tom Petty. You may not love the man, but you certainly don’t hate him, and that’s an undeniable asset in the face of democratic car listening.

Highway Companion is more or less an album that tells you exactly what you’re going to get: Tom Petty. Driving music. Metaphors about the open road with kickin’ licks. If that’s your bag, then Highway Companion is a breezy and fun listen that deserves to find its way on your playlist the next time you venture down the long and lonesome road home.