Rock superstars don't come more modest than Tom Petty, who twice has retreated into the relative anonymity of a group identity, first with The Traveling Wilburys (where he was only the fourth-most-distinguished member) and now with Mudcrutch, his pre-Heartbreakers band reunited after a 33-year hiatus. Because it also involves Heartbreakers Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench, it's tempting to look at Mudcrutch as just another Tom Petty record. And, truth be told, the record's laid-back, reliably melodic songs sit squarely in his comfort zone. But Mudcrutch's convincing "group" sound sets it apart. This, somewhat surprisingly, sounds like a real working band, with five estranged musicians re-discovering a potent chemistry untapped since the mid-'70s. (Petty even hands the guitar to bandmate Tom Leadon and dutifully returns to his old bass duties.) Recorded live to tape in just 10 days, Mudcrutch is the great SoCal country-rock record the band never got to make the first time around. As always, going retro suits Petty, who has a ball leading the band through the bar-band classic "Six Days On The Road" and his own likeable batch of slow burners, including "Scare Easy," which opens with an instant classic: "My love's an ocean, you better not cross it." Mudcrutch might be about wrapping up unfinished business, but there's plenty of new life in this old, thankfully resuscitated band.
More from The A.V. Club