Mudcrutch want you to know right out of the gate that this is a band record. While Mudcrutch’s most famous member does most of the singing on the album, lead guitarist Tom Leadon gets the first verse of opener “Shady Grove.”
As viewers of Runnin’ Down a Dream know, Mudcrutch was Tom Petty’s original band. Keyboardist Benmont Tench and guitarist Mike Campbell would go on to become Heartbreakers, Tom Leadon and drummer Randall Marsh would not. Likely inspired by revisiting the past through making that film, Petty reunited the band, and Mudcrutch released their debut album a mere four decades after forming.
Believe it or not, the end result actually sounds like a band album, not a Tom Petty record with a slightly different version of the Heartbreakers backing him up. For one, there are more songwriters than usual–two traditional songs, a Byrds song, the oft-covered “Six Days on the Road,” and one each by Tench and Leadon. Tench and Leadon take lead vocals on their songs, and Leadon provides harmonies throughout.
And it often sounds, appropriately, like a tribute to the musicians who inspired Mudcrutch those many decades ago, even when the songs are original. More than one, particularly Leadon’s “Queen of the Go-Go Girls,” would fit quite neatly on a Gram Parsons album or Sweetheart of the Rodeo.
Sometimes it does sound like Petty–“Scare Easy” is his best single in years, and ought to be added to the Heartbreakers’ live repetoire. (Better yet, have Leadon and Marsh come out and play on it.)
Throughout, it sounds like what it is–a bunch of old friends having a blast playing together, and conveying every bit of that fun to the lucky listeners who purchased the album. Here’s hoping they do it again sometime.
Update: Warner has pulled the official video. Here’s a backup until the YouTube/Warner dispute is resolved.
The Byrds’ “Lover of the Bayou”:
A short promotional video about the band’s history and reunion:
Note: Mudcrutch is available in two versions–a standard CD, and an audiophile package that includes the album on both 180 gram vinyl and “full dynamic range” CD. You can find out more about the two different releases in the articles and making-of videos linked here. I have the audiophile package, and it sounds great.