Tom Petty Offers One For The Road
By Eric R. Danton
Hartford Courant — July 27, 2006
TOM PETTY | Highway Companion | American
All Tom Petty can seem to talk about lately is how this summer’s tour is his last full-scale road trip, which is sort of funny, given that most of his third solo album is about life on the road. Not a musician’s life, though: “Highway Companion” deals more with the road as a metaphor for escape and rediscovery.
Petty sounds more pensive than he has in a while, as if he’s weary from long drives and dusty dashboards. It’s a welcome change from the bitter invective infecting 2004’s “The Last DJ,” and the songs are uniformly stronger on “Highway Companion.” Up-tempo rockers sizzle alongside folksy acoustic numbers, all of them loaded with searching lyrics about counting one’s blessings, paying one’s debts and starting fresh. It is in many ways a restless record, focusing on past and future without pausing to take stock of the present.
The music is vintage Petty: jangling electric guitar lines cascade through the songs like silvery waterfalls, organs hum subtly in the background, and Petty sings in the ageless nasal twang that has been his trademark for nearly 30 years. As with his previous solo efforts, this one includes contributions from Heartbreaker Mike Campbell on guitar. Fellow Traveling Wilbury Jeff Lynne produced with Petty and Campbell and adds guitar, bass and backing vocals.
If this is indeed a harbinger of a reduced touring schedule for Petty, he’s scaling back while in fine form. And even if he’s had enough of the road, at least he’s leaving listeners a fine companion for late-night drives on whatever highway is handy.