Tom Petty, Mojo,Reprise Records
Two years ago Tom Petty cranked up his ’70s Florida band Mudcrutch and made an album. Playing that music might have taken some of the pressure off Petty, allowing him to go to that Southern place where the nights are thick with humidity and the future looks like one long promise. And when the group went across America on tour, it was obvious fun was number one on the checklist, and none of the players were going to settle for less.
Now, on the rocker’s new release with longtime band the Heartbreakers, Petty has taken the wild road which opened up for Mudcrutch to the end of the line, and what a fine line it is, too. The sound of these new songs is one founded on freedom: the freedom to play like grown up men with nothing left to prove except what an incredible band they are, and the freedom to say whatever they want to say simply because it needs to get said.
That it is easily one of the best albums Petty and the Heartbreakers have ever made is really no surprise. They have everything within their musical grasp, and deliver it with an avalance of excitement that feels like they’re plugged directly into a cosmic socket from the very first song, “Jefferson Jericho Blues.” The sky’s the limit, with guitarist Mike Campbell marking his spot with ferocious abandon and the Heartbreakers always pushing the pulse into the red zone. These fine fellows are throwing down, make no mistake, and letting us in on what lies ahead. “First Flash of Freedom,” “Running Man’s Bible” and “The Trip to Pirate’s Cove” are a total hat trick, songwriting on a level we just don’t hear much anymore.
Petty should be glowing with pride just how natural it comes to life. It’s like he found a swampy hammock outside his old home in Gainesville and had a long psychedelic dream, one where the notes and words danced around his head until he woke up and wrote those three songs in a vivid fever. All that follow are just as inspired, until by the last two, “Something Good Coming” and “Good Enough,” Tom Petty has found his bluesy grace, standing in the light like a man who doesn’t have to worry about a thing. He’s got his mojo working, and he knows it just might work on you.
Bill Bentley is a writer, musician, publicist, record producer and A&R director. He once played drums with Lightnin’ Hopkins.