The Petty Archives

Editor's Note: "Life is a Highway" is Tom Cochrane, not Tom Petty. 

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Petty leaves youngsters behind with Highway Companions
By Jessie K. Finch
The Collegian - Tuesday, August 29, 2006

With such treasured songs as "Free Fallin'" and "Life is a Highway," what's not to love about the care-free, if sometimes overly-reflective Tom Petty? I'll tell you what: His new album Highway Companions. Now, I love the classic Petty as much as the next Heartbreaker, but there is something too introspective about his new album. Wait -- did you hear that sound? Perhaps it was mine and Tom Petty's generations' gapping.

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Highway Companions certainly has several highpoints. The lyrics are thoughtful. Listening to them makes one wonder at the struggle Petty seems to be having as he ages.

Through "Flirting with Time" and "Damaged by Love," Petty soulfully lives out what must be his philosophical musings about his long career as a Heartbreaker and a Traveling Wilbury.

Indeed, the album is recorded, produced and written by Petty with the help of his former bandmates Mike Campbell (guitarist for the Heartbreakers) and Jeff Lynne (bass and keyboards from Traveling Wilburys). Howevver, for a collegiate twenty-something who has yet to glimpse the heartfelt longing for my old hometown that Petty expresses, the lyrics just didn't resonate with me.

Despite the potential alienation of younger audiences, Highway Companions contains insightful, if more middle-aged lyrics (he is now 56), and the album has a relatively strong groove. Petty has long been known for his command of the drum set and he does not disappoint in this album. He keeps a solid rhythm throughout the album that works nicely with Campbell's slide guitar and Lynne's bass riffs. It is also still true to Petty's folk origins. There is a slower and more relaxed feel to the songs on this album than past songs like "Mary Jane's Last Dance" and "Refugee."

Indeed, Rolling Stone has said that the Tom Petty of Highway Companions "might just be entering his Time Out Of Mind Period" in reference to the meditative album by Bob Dylan from 1997.

So, while I wouldn't say I'm throwing out the free copy of Highway Companions that American Records sent to the Collegian Ofifice, I don't know  that I would recommend it to many friends. I may sent it to my parents, or keep around for my quarter-life crisis, but I probably won't be jamming to it like I will to my Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Greatest Hits album.