CD Review: Tom Petty

Tom Petty
Highway Companion
By David Chiu

Consistent is what best describes Tom Petty’s music in the 30 years since his debut album with the Heartbreakers. Petty has never deviated from the Byrds/Rolling Stones/roots-rock influenced sound that has marked his best works. Highway Companion, his third outing without the Heartbreakers, is a modest-sounding rock effort that finds Petty reuniting with producer and fellow Traveling Wilbury, Jeff Lynne. No, this isn’t a retread of Full Moon Fever, Petty’s classic solo debut; surprisingly, Lynne, holds back the grandiose pop ambitions he has been renowned for from his ELO days as he and Petty allows a spare, sonic backdrop. Petty, along with instrumental assists longtime cohort Mike Campbell and Lynne, play mainly intimate roots rock with pleasant results: the chugging and carefree “Big Weekend” (which echoes the Wilbury’s “End of the Line”), “Saving Grace,” ; Petty is also at his loveliest with ballads “Square One” and “Down South.” He’s matured a long way from the loner angst and desperation found on his earlier work such as “Refugee” and “You Got Lucky,” but it doesn’t mean he’s mellowed lyrically as Highway Companion’s aching “Damaged by Love.” In essence, despite the pop sheen of the album, it conveys a world-weary point of view. The record is classic Petty at his best and the poster boy of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”


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