Mudcrutch’s belated self-titled debut brought Tom Petty back to his roots

Share this:

Mudcrutch was the ancestor band to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, fronted by Petty and including future Heartbreakers Benmont Tench and Mike Campbell, Petty’s steadfast lead guitar sidekick. The lineup also included drummer Randall Marsh and, early on, Tom Leadon on second guitar. (Tom is Eagles co-founder Bernie Leadon’s brother.)

Unfortunately, this Jacksonville, Fla., bar band never laid down more than a handful of tracks before breaking up in 1975, with Petty forming a new group from its remnants that made rock history. Fast forward to April 29, 2008, and the release of the long-awaited self-titled debut album by Mudcrutch.

Apparently, nostalgia eventually got a good hold on Petty, as he called back Randall Marsh and Tom Leadon and got the old band together again for a record and tour. Petty even made room for Leadon by returning to the bass; he ceded a little bit of the lead vocals to Leadon, as well.

Still, as before, it’s still mostly Tom Petty’s band, although Mudcrutch features more of a cooperative spirit than you might expect with a superstar in their midst.

The sound as they presented it in the 21st century wasn’t terribly different from the Heartbreakers, but Mudcrutch is closer to their core influences. The mixture of jangly pop, country and straight ahead rock ‘n’ roll makes Mudcrutch approximate the post-Gram Parsons Byrds, and that’s no accident.

Recording quickly and without many touches added, Tom Petty let his hair down and put his notorious studio perfectionism aside to recapture the feel of a hungry American rock band in the immediate post-Beatles era. Highlights included the extended stoner jam of “Crystal River,” the raw rock of the Byrds’ “Lover of The Bayou,” and the “American Girl”-styled “Bootleg Flyer.” Even if not every song is a winner, Mudcrutch was played with enough earnestness to make you believe that it is, anyway.

Although no one was noticing by then, Tom Petty still made good records. He didn’t really need to reconnect to his pre-fame days, but that he did was every rock fan’s gain.


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
Share this:
Close