Ruminations on TV Shows, Comics, And Music
My version of Southern Accents was mostly a Tom Petty's Greatest Hits Before Full Moon Fever. Sure, I snuck on a few tracks that weren't singles or Classic Petty Tracks, and I may have left off a single or two, but it was mostly the crowd-pleasing Petty Played Them Until He Died songs that he wrote in the 70s and early 80s. But I'm not ready to put up Full Moon Fever yet.
Towards the end of my Southern Accents, Petty's sound started to evolve. More piano-focus, cleaner vocals, a ballad. Petty was starting to branch out from his particular brand of Southern Rock. But while I don't think that was evident in his hits of the 70s and early 80s, I do think his B-Sides and outtakes were already vastly different from his pop hits.
This album is named after Petty's pre-Heartbreakers band, Mudcrutch. It doesn't feature any songs from the band, I just like the name, and think it works for describing Petty's less radio-friendly tunes. Most of these songs I originally encountered on Playback, Petty's mid-90s box set. There's also a Traveling Wilbury's song (a supergroup of Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty, and Jeff Lynne). There will be more Wilbury songs as the discography continues.
This version of Mudcrutch is a weird Petty album, but I like it as An Album more than I enjoy listening to Southern Accents, even though that has all the hits on it. This feels less like "Oooh, I want to hear that one song I love, and then the other songs I know from the radio" and more like "Huh, this is really cool."
I'm not advocating the message of the first track, but the beat, and the overall atmosphere it creates. Peace In LA was written during the LA Riots of the early 90s. I support that Petty is advocating for peace while condeming the completely corrupt racist cops of LA in the early 90s, but sometimes you do need burning and looting so that murderers and abusers in police uniforms don't continue to keep getting away with their disgusting criminal behavior. (Don't at me with arguments about The Police, unless it's about Gordon Sumner, Andy Summers, and Stewart Copeland. It would be a waste of your racist breath.) The song is a slow scorcher. Honkytonk piano, electric guitar tearing across the stereo, and then a weird ending that bubbles straight into
You Come Through. Lyrically, this is more familiar Petty territoty. A baby, honeypie, sweet thing song about love and loneliness. But Petty moves more across his range. This is a more interesting version of "Refugee". It's a similar instrumentation with much cooler vocals, better lyrics, and a slightly funkier lead guitar. There's even a fake fade out that was so en vogue in the late 70s/early 80s.
A strumming acoustic guitar and a guitar rise out of the fade out, and the lower-toned Petty, somewhere around his vocals on "Spike" sings the very bluesy Big Boss Man, where he relays his feelings about his boss, who thinks he's so big, but is actually just tall. This is a cover of a Jimmy Reed song, and actually Does sound like it could be from Petty's very early catalogue. I love the stretch into blues here, Petty has a better voice for blues than he does for rock, and I wish he'd done a whole album of songs like this.
Travelin' is more similar to Petty's mainstream jangle rock but the drums are straight out Bob Dylan's playbook, and overall the song, which was recorded for Full Moon Fever, sounds more like an excellent cover song rather than a Petty original. It might have been something that made it onto Mojo or, more likely, Highway Companion. It's just a fun folk rock song.
Oooh, Petty takes the Dylan voice back out of the box for I Don't Know What To Say To You. It's a weird little B-side from the late seventies with a country rag feel. The lyrics are all over the place, a kind of frenetic "Desolation Row". It makes you want to make a funny face and bop your head around to the bassline breakdown.
Cracking Up wears its New Wave meets Southern Rock sensibility proudly. It's almost Devo/Carsish in its sensibility and keyboards. But it still has Petty's twang and his riffiness (even if it's buried further in the mix than usual). We get all the way to the end before he breaks out his rock and roll screeching that was so prevelant in his 70s and 80s tracks. Then he Jeff Foxworthys his way out of the track.
There's a real traditional rock sound to God's Gift To Man. Petty is back to his usual vocal styling. It's a typical man changes things for a woman, and it doesn't end well song that makes incels nod their hateful little heads. Not his best work, lyrically, but it's a super catchy southern rock riff.
Can't Get Her Out is almost a follow-up to the previous track. This is a a battling guitar, jangly keyboard, roackabilly piano song with super generic lyrics about a "dangerous girl" Petty can't forget about. Move on, Tom, you were a rock star when you wrote this go find someone who loves you.
Keeping Me Alive almost sounds like an 80s Bruce Springsteen track with Petty on background vocals. I can understand why he didn't put it on an album, even though I really enjoy it. Finally, it's an upbeat song about love where some woman is "keeping (him) alive". I suspect this is closer to the narrative of his real life than the previous two tracks.
Starting somewhere between "Stand By Me" and "I Won't Back Down" is the Very Floridian laidback Casa Dega. It's a B-side from Damn The Torpedoes that I enjoy more than almost any song that made the album.
Waiting For Tonight sounds like it came off Petty's Into The Great Wide Open. Lyrically, it has a bit of a "Free Fallin'" feel, but the background vocals, provided by The Bangles, and the production sound like they came from later in Petty's discography than it does.
The beginning of Down The Line sounds like a reimagining of King Floyd's "Groove Me". This is not a complaint. I love the added funk, and the horns. I also appreciate Petty's almost restrained vocals on this. It's not quite his Dylan voice, but it borders on it.
If "Down The Line" shows Petty's 70s funk influences than Depot Street shows that Petty had a love of reggae that mirrored The Clash, Blondie, and, to a lesser extent, The Police. It has the same Nice Try But No This Isn't Reggae Despite Your Clipped Nasal Delivery as a bunch of late 70s/early 80s reggae influenced tunes. I like it on its own merit but I wouldn't put it on an actual reggae mix. Despite the copious amount of weed Petty smoked, you get the idea that he didn't spend quite enough time in Jamaica to perfect this musical style.
The Traveling Wilburys, like most supergroups, weren't equal to the sum of their parts. I rarely want to listen to more than one song by them at a time. Wilbury Twist is a very 50's Nostalgia Rock Song. I do like the song, and enjoy the way it helps flesh out this weird little album even further. But would I rank it in my top fifty Tom Petty songs? Probably not. It is another White Gu Sshoulder Dancer, though. But everything about this song is derivative nostalgia, which isn't relaly my thing. But here, we actually have Bob Dylan doing vocals on this track, along with Petty, Lynch, and Harrison.
Closing out the album is A Very 1970s ballad, Since You Said You Loved Me. The trilling piano sweeps and softo rock drum beat barely made it out of the 1970s. I think it's a completely fitting end to this eclectic little album.