The Petty Archives

37 years later, Mudcrutch finally delivers
By Andrew Dansby
Houston Chronicle - Sunday, May 18, 2008

"Mudcrutch" | Mudcrutch | Reprise Records | 2 ½ stars
Thirty-seven years after forming, Mudcrutch recorded its debut album in 10 days last year. There's a dusty charm to Mudcrutch, the first full-length recording by Tom Petty's first band. But this is not a raggedy garage rock variation on Petty's other work, despite the group's name and the hasty recording process. That much is evident from the first cut, a take on the traditional folk tune Shady Grove with Petty (back to his original role of bassist) trading verses with Tom Leadon, who also shares lead guitar duty with longtime Petty player Mike Campbell.

Scare Easy picks up the pace some, but it's hard not to hear it as a Petty and the Heartbreakers song. Campbell's guitar is a little more muted than it might otherwise be, but the lyrics are fairly traditional, won't-back-down Petty:

"I don't scare easy/ Don't fall apart when I'm under the gun/ You can break by heart but I ain't gonna run/ I don't scare easy for no one."

Benmont Tench, the third Heartbreaker involved, plinks through a servicable rollicking cover of the trucker anthem Six Days on the Road. Orphan of the Storm is a poignant New Orleans-to-Houston post-Katrina tune. Harmonies, not surprisingly, are lovely throughout.

Mudcrutch is frequently pretty and more lively than Petty's Highway Companion from two years ago. Its best songs are nice Petty additions. Others (such as Tench's OK This Is a Good Street) sound more like box-set filler, which is what happens when you make a "quick" 57-minute album. But during its meandering hour, Mudcrutch just can't muffle expectations for a true Southern garage rock stomper; the 30-minute album that seemed inevitable given this project's name and background.

Still, traces of that louder recording flicker occasionally, as on the raving Byrds cover Lover of the Bayou and on The Wrong Thing to Do.

"It's the wrong thing to do," Petty sneers on the latter as only he can. "But I don't care."