The Petty Archives

Right place, time for Mudcrutch
Review by Randy Lewis
The Los Angeles Times - April 29, 2008

Mudcrutch | "Mudcrutch" | (Reprise) | ★★★
Mudcrutch -- consisting of pre-Heartbreakers members Tom Petty, Benmont Tench and Mike Campbell, along with Tom Leadon and Randall Marsh -- never managed to release an album despite a regional following in Florida in the early '70s.

Had the group as it sounds in these 14 songs (in stores today) appeared back then, it might well have gone little noticed amid the proliferation of bands that were mixing rock, country, bluegrass and folk traditions. Today, however, it's a breath of fresh air. It's rock the old-school way -- born of real-time collaboration and realized with heaps of joy and sweat.

Mudcrutch's songs are sung mostly by Petty, with Leadon and Tench taking over on occasion, and they span the heartland rock that's long been the Heartbreakers' stock in trade to the earthier likes of the bluegrass standard "Shady Grove" that opens the album."This Is a Good Street" is especially appealing, a swampy groove about valuing what's good in life. The Southern rock classic "Six Days on the Road" is a testament to Mudcrutch's formative period as a top-flight bar band, and "Scare Easy" lands squarely in Heartbreakers land, with its four-square rock backbeat, missing only the jangling electric guitars.

The 9 ½ -minute "Crystal River" and the similarly exploratory "Bootleg Flyer" make Petty's desire to reconstitute Mudcrutch clear. The instrumental interplay, particularly among guitarists Campbell and Leadon, extends beyond the Heartbreakers' signature corner of pop into Allman Brothers Band, Crazy Horse, even Grateful Dead territory.

Mudcrutch, which concludes a sold-out, six-night stand at the Troubadour on Friday, probably wouldn't have overshadowed the Flying Burrito Brothers, the Allmans or even the Eagles three decades ago. But as a road worth traveling circa 2008, Petty and his pals have staked themselves out a pretty good street.