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Tom Petty

Tom Petty
Highway Companion (American
Recordings
; July 2006) petty%20cd.jpg
Tom Petty - Highway Companion

When you’ve been pumping out crowd-pleasing music for 30 years,
you start to get the hang of it. Petty’s latest effort, sans
Heartbreakers, is surefire proof. True to the album’s title, nearly
every song talks about leaving somewhere, going somewhere, or being
stuck somewhere.

The opening track, “Saving Grace,” which is getting lots of
airplay these days, alludes to hiding from life by hitting the road
and includes wonderfully gritty guitar work with train-chugging
chords. “Down South” talks about heading to “see my daddy’s
mistress” and recreating a new persona in a different world. Using
vivid imagery, this is one of the few Petty songs that discusses
the final destination, not merely the journey. Meanwhile, the only
thing missing on the song “Turn This Car Around” is screeching
tires. There’s such a quiet, understated threat in this song; Tom
is going back so there’s no point in arguing. By far the strongest
track, “Big Weekend” fully anticipates fun-to-be-had, advising:
“Kick up the dust…if you don’t run, you rust.” An ideal bar tune,
full of raucous enthusiasm.

As a lyricist, Petty is pure genius with his simplicity. With
lines such as “Keeps broken dreams to fix up and sell” in the sad
tune “Damaged by Love,” or “Always had more dogs than bones” in the
imagined clean slate of “Square One,” Petty is a master craftsman.
As a musician, Petty seemingly gains momentum with age; he
performed most of the backing instrumentation on this album. If he
bothered to sit down for 10 minutes, someone might call him a
legend.

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