Review: Mudcrutch album a standout
By Bill Dean
Gainesville Sun — Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Comparing the sound of Mudcrutch, Tom Petty’s storied band in Gainesville, with that other group that made a name for itself in California, is like, well, comparing the high-lonesome, home-brewed sounds of North Central Florida with the California-mellow groove that Petty played no small role in popularizing.
Recorded in just over two weeks in August of last year, the first – and only full – released album by Mudcrutch, the self-titled new album, which is released today, will be a revelation, both for locals who remember the original band and its performances at places like the “Mudcrutch Farm” or at Dub’s Steer Room, as well as listeners who’ve only heard the stories of Petty’s beginnings in his hometown.
The most striking quality of “Mudcrutch” is its organic, grass-roots embrace of the musical roots of its members, Petty, guitarist Mike Campbell, keyboardist Benmont Tench (each of whom ended up in the Heartbreakers) and original guitarist Tom Leadon and drummer Randall Marsh.
Along with its reputation as being something of a shoehorn for rock groups on the way up, North Central Florida has no shortage of fine, exemplary even, bluegrass musicians, and those who prefer heaping doses of country with their rock ‘n’ roll.
And the Mudcrutchers gleefully and joyfully pay homage to those sounds with an album that couldn’t be more different than any recorded by that band that starts with “H” and ends with “R.”
For his part, Petty – just as he had done with Mudcrutch 38 years ago – trades in his six-string Rickenbacher guitar to play bass on all 14 tracks. Gorgeous guitar interplay highlights such songs as “Crystal River” – a 9 ½-minute jam tune.
There are many incandescent moments that stand out on “Mudcrutch” and many of them do so while reminiscing or reinventing country-tinged sounds, swampish rock and even a bluegrass tune or two.
“Orphan of the Storm,” a lovely, lilting tune sparked by Petty’s storytelling penchant and Tench’s buoyant keyboards, is a key example. Though Petty sets the action in Texas and Louisiana, its recurring line “So Lord, send me down a fallen angel,” calls to mind Central Florida’s “Grievous Angel,” Gram Parsons, who grew up in Winter Haven and greatly influenced country rock in groups like the Flying Burrito Brothers and The Byrds (with whom he recorded the seminal “Sweethearts of the Rodeo”).
In fact, Red Simpson’s trucker anthem, “Six Days on the Road” – itself covered by the Burrito Brothers, shows up here in a galloping, barn dance-worthy version, while The Byrds’ “Lover of the Bayou” is milked for its atmospheric, swampy, garage-sound best.
Humor abounds on “Mudcrutch,” as well. Leadon weighs in with “Queen of the Go-Go Girls,” the one Mudcrutch original on this album from way back that charms with its description of the bar, Dub’s, where the band became famous for playing stands of six nights a week. Tench’s “This Is a Good Street” and Petty’s “The Wrong Thing to Do” combine lyrical charms and with perfectly accompanying sounds as well.
“Mudcrutch” wasn’t recorded with a zillion-dollar budget and record company executives peering over anyone’s shoulders, and it shows. Thank goodness, it shows.