Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ gritty Mojo was more than just the blues

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When Tom Petty’s Mojo arrived on June 15, 2010, it had been eight years since The Last DJ, the last Heartbreakers album — although Petty gave us the “solo” Highway Companion in ’06 and the 3/5th’s Heartbreakers one-off group Mudcrutch in ’08. Still, Mojo meant a new batch of recordings with his best backing band, and that garnered extra attention.

This one has been labeled their “blues” record, and while there are blues songs in it — like The Last DJ — Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers don’t stick with the theme all the way through. That’s OK; this is killer group that sounds good playing anything and Petty writes like he’s still got the hunger. And frankly, he was and still is one of the great rock singers of all time, because of his ability to convey the right attitude without even trying.

About half of the songs on Tom Petty’s Mojo do qualify as blues, like the Chicago-style “Jefferson Jericho Blues,” and “Candy,” the convincing Leadbelly country folk-blues of “U.S. 41” or the Canned Heat boogie of “Let Yourself Go.” But mixed in are psychedelic jams (“First Flash Of Freedom”), country (“No Reason To Cry”), Led Zeppelin hard blues-rock (“I Should Have Known It”) and even reggae (“Don’t Pull Me Over”).

No matter what they tackle, it’s put through the Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ filter. Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench shine on lead guitar and keys respectively, as usual, and this combo remains the most sophisticated garage band in America. Mojo was good enough for them to retain that distinction for twenty-something years running.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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