Wondering why Tom Petty's first band Mudcrutch never secured a deal, it strikes me: is there a less appealing name in rock'n'roll? Their pleasant country-rock on this belated debut is no less engaging than that of other, more famous, California-cowboy combos.
Clearly influenced by the Burritos and The Byrds' darkling country phase – as shown on faithful covers of "Six Days On the Road" and "Lover of the Bayou", respectively – they're equally at home on bluegrass instrumentals like "June Apple" and the raga-rock swirl of first single "Scare Easy", one of several world-weary outsider anthems here.
The jangly canter of opener "Shady Grove" resembles Petty's Heartbreakers – no surprise, as Mudcrutch also featured Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench, reunited with drummer Randall Marsh and guitarist Tom Leadon 35 years after their split. Recorded live, it's a polished but complacent album – the drowsy reverie of "Crystal River" ambles along for nearly 10 minutes of eddying guitar and piano without ever threatening its levees.
Pick of the album:'Shady Grove', 'Six Days On the Road', 'Scare Easy', 'Bootleg Flyer'