Mudcrutch: Mudcrutch (Reprise)

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Mudcrutch: Crystal River
Mudcrutch: Mudcrutch (Reprise)

Here's an odd and unexpected one.

Anyone who has seen Peter Bogdanovich's recent Runnin' Down a Dream DVD doco about Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (in Absolute Elsewhere, use the tag below) should be very interested in this belated debut album by Petty's pre-Heartbreakers band.

Mudcrutch were Tom's band in Gainesville, Florida in the mid 70s and there was interesting footage in that thorough doco of them creating their own outdoor festivals in those hippie days (Petty with hair down to his bum). There were also snippets of Mudcrutch music which seemed to owe a fair bit to the Southern boogie and country-rock of the period.

Cut to the present day and Tom with the former Mudcrutch members who became Heartbreakers (Mike Campbell, Benmont Tench) have reunited with Randall Marsh and Tom Leadon (brother of Bernie from the Flying Burrito Brothers and the Eagles).

This reunion album was knocked off live in 10 days and sounds a thoroughly enjoyable affair for all concerned: they cover Dave Dudley's Six Days on the Road and the Byrds' Lover of the Bayou; but Petty, Tench, Leadon and Campbell also brought new material.

The result sounds distant from what the first incarnation of Mudcrutch might have been and has a very Petty-post-Wilburys feel in country-framed acoustic rock. Petty's youthful snarl is now melancholy and adult, full of reflection. Titles tell a story of their own: Orphans of the Storm, Crystal River, This is a Good Street, June Apples, Topanga Cowgirl . . .

This will doubtless have great appeal for those who favour Petty from the Free Falling and onwards era -- although in the closing overs Lover of the Bayou and Bootleg Flyer have a welcome kick.

Curiously, it is one of those albums where you are best to forget the history and appreciate on its own merits (much like the Wilburys in that regard). Do that and you'll get a lot of country-rock listening pleasure.

And Petty offers up two terrific songs in the nine-minute Crystal River and House of Stone which suggest the material he brought weren't just those which hadn't made the final cut for his own albums.

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