Tom Petty has described re-forming his pre-fame, early-’70s outfit Mudcrutch as…”crazy.” To which we say, ”Piffle!” As last year’s rock doc Runnin’ Down a Dream: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers showed, the group was pretty good. Indeed, keyboardist Benmont Tench and guitarist Mike Campbell went on to play in Petty’s band the Heartbreakers. They are joined on this debut release — which comes three decades after their split — by guitarist Tom Leadon, who later backed Linda Ronstadt, and drummer Randall Marsh, a music teacher. Mudcrutch, on which Petty handles bass and most vocals, also largely features new tunes from the star, who’s been in fine creative form of late. As a result, it sounds like a pretty good Tom Petty record.
Some tracks are surprisingly loose, such as the jammy ”Crystal River.” But midtempo rockers ”The Wrong Thing to Do” and ”Scare Easy” could have appeared on Petty’s great last CD, Highway Companion. And his vocals have rarely sounded more quaveringly beautiful than they do on honky-tonk lament ”Orphan of the Storm.” There are a few low points — for instance, folky instrumental ”June Apple” was probably more fun to play than it is to hear — yet mostly, Mudcrutch works for everyone: fans, the members who were left behind fame-wise, and Petty himself, who gets to look like a good guy for giving them a taste of what they missed. Crazy? Like a you-know-what. B+
DOWNLOAD THIS: Hear ”Scare Easy” on the Mudcrutch MySpace page