As the launching point for Tom Petty's career - as well as that of Heartbreaker lynchpins Benmont Tench and Mike Campbell - Mudcrutch's role in that trio's trajectory ought not be underestimated. Although the band recorded and released only one single prior to the leap from Gainesville Fla. to the world at large, Mudcrutch provided the essential training that Petty and the Heartbreakers would mine so successfully when fame and fortune came calling.
Forty years on, what originally began as a one-off reunion has apparently blossomed into an ongoing concern. Mudcrutch has not only been revived, but given the full accreditation an active ensemble deserves, albeit one that boasts a certified superstar and a pair of heavy hitters. Little wonder then that the seminal band shows a potency worthy of its successors.
On record anyway, there's little difference between the present day Heartbreakers and Mudcrutch's current incarnation. Three of its five slots are occupied by Petty, Tench and Campbell, with guitarist Tom Leadon (brother of ex-Eagle Bernie Leadon) and drummer Randall Marsh filling out the remainder of the roster. Little wonder then that the music otherwise appears interchangeable. "Dreams of Flying," "Hope," "Victim of Circumstance" and "Beautiful World" are sprawling, certifiable rockers that would find an appropriate place in the Heartbreaker's repertoire, while the hazy ballad "Beautiful Blue" could fit nicely on any one of Petty's solo outings.
Still, "Mudcrutch 2" does demonstrate democracy in action. Not surprisingly, Petty sings lead on most songs, but he also cedes the spotlight at times, allowing Leadon, Marsh, Tench and Campbell to take center stage for their own compositions. And while there are common threads - a fondness for rootsy rockers and introspective rumination - several songs, including opening track "Trailer," the rowdy "Welcome to Hell" and the banjo strummed "The Other Side of the Mountain," reflect a certain down home demeanour. Nevertheless, Petty fans will be pleased, given that "Mudcrutch 2" is an adequate stopgap measure, at least until Petty and his current colleagues come up with something new of their own.