When Tom Petty reassembled his first, pre-Heartbreakers band in 2007, it may have seemed like a novelty. Now, with a second album, Mudcrutch feel like a steady moonlighting gig. This record is more of a band effort than the decades-delayed debut – all of the members get writing credits, and all get a shot at a lead vocal. The songs tend to lean toward punchy Southern rock.
Tom Petty reunited his original Gainesville band Mudcrutch for a lark in 2008. Their eponymous album and short accompanying tour didn't carry the feeling of unfinished business so much as a good-natured ramble through the past. Some old originals were excavated, new songs written, and old favorites covered, all wrapped up in a charmingly ragged little record that gave Petty a bit of a creative jolt.
Tom Petty is back, just not in the manner that you might expect. Following in the wake of the success of his last album with his regular band The Heartbreakers, 2014’s Hypnotic Eye, Petty has decided once again to venture off the beaten path to record once again with Mudcrutch, the band that began as a forerunner to the Heartbreakers but became a side project once revived. With keyboardist Benmont Tench and guitarist and regular foil Mike Campbell also onboard, Mudcrutch isn’t a huge sonic leap from his regular line of work, but from an emotional standpoint, the differences from this release and his nominal day job couldn’t be vaster.
As the launch point for Tom Petty’s career—as well as that of Heartbreaker lynchpins Benmont Tench and Mike Campbell—Mudcrutch’s role in that trio’s trajectory ought not be underestimated. Although the band recorded and released only one single prior to the leap from Gainesville, Florida to the world at large, Mudcrutch provided the essential training that Petty and the Heartbreakers would mine so successfully when fame and fortune came calling. Forty years on, what originally began as a one-off reunion has apparently blossomed into an ongoing concern.
Tom Petty’s pre-fame band reconvene. As if to prove that 2008’s debut album, 33 years after they split and effectively evolved into Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, wasn’t just a whim, Mudcrutch deliver another sweetly serviceable offering. While it can’t match the last, extremely impressive Heartbreakers set, Hypnotic Eye, it’s a strong country-rock presentation from what’s not quite the sultan of side projects but rather more than Petty’s return-to-roots Tin Machine.
Overlook the legend of the original LP, that “Mudcrutch” was a great lost album from the zenith of Southern Rock’s creative and commercial success. Ignore the fact that Mudcrutch, the band, was the launching pad for one of the late-20th century’s most beloved rock-stylists, Tom Petty. You’ll be shocked to find, beyond the hype and the PR spin, that Mudcrutch is a great rock ’n roll band, plain and simple.
Mudcrutch is the band that couldn't be denied. Tom Petty started as a bass player in the Gainesville, Fla., quintet in the early '70s, and the band had promise and chops. Its lineup included guitarist Tom Leadon, brother of the Eagles' Bernie Leadon. But after one single, the group dissolved, and Petty forged a solo deal.