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Quick Hits: Mudcrutch – Mudcrutch

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When Tom Petty decided to put the band back together he really decided to put the band back together. After a thirty-two year hiatus, Petty recently re-assembled his old college group, Mudcrutch for an album and tour. The tour ended last month. The album is a gem.

Regardless of what you think about Tom Petty or his performance at this year’s Super Bowl, this album proves that Petty has gotten better with age. Mudcrutch combines songs from all walks of the American musical landscape, ending as a record that is refreshing while maintaining a welcomed amount of familiarity. Nowhere on the record is this more evident than in its first song, a cover of the classic mountain tune “Shady Grove.” By opening with this older-than-the-hills tune, Mudcrutch sends two immediate messages: first, this is not a Tom Petty record; second, the band knows its roots, cares about ‘em, and ain’t afraid to use ‘em. The same can be said about “Six Days on the Road,” the classic rocker that has been covered by the likes of Steve Earle, George Thorogood, and Taj Mahal (whose version tops them all). Mudcrutch, like Mahal, plows through the song like a tour bus flying down an open highway.

As for the band’s other material, there is little disappointment to be found. Songs like “Orphan of the Storm” resemble the best of pioneering country-rock bands like the Byrds. The instrumental track “June Apple” harkens back to the soul of early Stax artists like Booker T. and the M.G.’s mixed in with some driving seventies-country twang. “Lover of the Bayou,” an early single (“Scare Easy” is another standout), sounds like the great Petty hit “Last Dance with Mary Jane” only Mary Jane is being drowned in a dark, muddy, Louisiana swamp (which, it turns out, makes for one hell of a song). My favorite track is the finale “House of Stone,” which has the soul of a Monroe or Louvin Brothers gospel song, and a mandolin solo to boot.

On a whole, Mudcrutch is a tour through the last sixty years of American soul music. While the album is not without its faults, the few throwaway tracks are outnumbered by the wealth of well-written and soulful tunes that look back and pay homage without losing sight of the road ahead.

For more on the re-assembled band check out this NYTimes article.

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