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Mudcrutch - 'Mudcrutch'

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The band Tom Petty moved to L.A. with from Gainesville, Fla., releases its first album 30-odd years after making one single and breaking up, allowing Petty and Mike Campbell to form the Heartbreakers. Mudcrutch today is a far better band than that single revealed, and their command of the country-rock idiom owes to decades of study and performance is gloriously revealed in the album's 14 tracks.

Original lneup of Campbell, Petty on bass and vocals, Tom Leadon on rhythm guitar and vocals and drummer Randall Marsh are joined by Heratbreaker keyboardist Benmont Tench for this confident and expertly executed dip in waters inspired by early '70s genre cross-pollination. The aura of the Flying Burrito Brothers -- Tom's brother Bernie was a member -- looms large and the band displays an affinity for Allman Brothers' style jams, the occasional "White Album"-inspired chord change and the smnoothness of a bluegrass duel. Lyrics are rather simple: home life, traveling, the girls who become lovers and the girls at the clubs. Steeped in that era, only one of the tunes, "Oh Maria," could be lifted and convincingly placed on a new Heartbreakers album untouched. Since the beginning of the Heartbreakers, Petty has walked the line between the new wave and mainstream '60s-influenced rock 'n' roll; Mudcrutch is old-fashioned and fun.

While technically a diversion, "Mudcrutch" is obviously a Petty affair, His vocals and Campbell's guitar lines dominate and there's cleanness to every aspect of the album, despite it being recorded live over the course of 10 days. Watching them perform only cemented that assertion as every note on the album was replicated in concert; Petty's the boss and, as usual, he aims for an execution of a vision and not one that emphasizes the showiness. It conflicts with many of the acts from the heady days Mudcrutch draws upon, but it confirms the validity of the oft-maligned era as a springboard.


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