Tom Petty

Highway Companion | American/Columbia
By MATT ASHARE  |  July 24, 2006
3.0 3.0 Stars

COMFORT FOOD: Within the first four or five tracks, Petty covers a career’s worth of musical ground.
If it sometimes seems that Tom Petty’s been writing the same song — or at least the same album — for the past two decades, that’s because, well, he sorta has been. Still, even if he doesn’t always come up with a “Free Falling” or a “Running Down a Dream,” it’s always a pretty good album, with all the Byrds-meet-the Stones vigor and chime of his early recordings, and that little bit of Dylan that’s crept into his voice, lyrics, and acoustic guitar as he’s grown older and mellowed. Highway Companion is only his third solo album, but with his pal Jeff Lynne producing and Mike Campbell contributing his impeccably concise, criminally underrated leads, it doesn’t differ much from what he does with the Heartbreakers. Within the first four or five tracks, he covers a career’s worth of musical ground. There’s the “Tush”-like blues tenor of the opening “Saving Grace” and the folk-rock melodicism of what follows in “Won’t Back Down,” with its short but sweet slide solo. Long-time Petty fans will get a kick out of hearing the singer-songwriter pound out his own backbeats, man the bass, and mess around on harmonica and keyboards, even if on the mid-tempo rocker “Ankle Deep” it’s all too easy to guess the chorus (“Ankle deep . . . in love”) and Petty’s rhymes are never less than predictable. Think of it as rock-and-roll comfort food.
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