It’s time to shine the Vinyl Spotlight! Every now and then on Paloozapalooza, I like to focus on a specific LP from my collection. This week, we have:
Mudcrutch – 2 (2016)
It’s been more than a week and I’m still struggling with Tom Petty’s death. The only thing that makes sense is to listen to his music around the clock, so that’s pretty much what I’ve been doing.
Last week, I wrote about Echo, one of my all-time favorite Petty records. This time, I turn to the last record he released in his lifetime: Mudcrutch’s 2. It’s a hell of a record to begin with, one I prefer over either of the last two records Petty made with the Heartbreakers, but hearing it now, after his passing? It sounds even better than before. More raw. More profound.
In case you aren’t familiar with the story behind Mudcrutch, it was Petty’s first successful group in the early 70s and included eventual Heartbreakers Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench. The band got fairly popular and signed to Shelter records, but then failed to put anything substantial together in the studio. The label gave up on Mudcrutch, but still wanted Petty, eventually leading to the formation of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Petty put Mudcrutch back together in 2007, recruiting original drummer Randall Marsh and original guitarist Tom Leadon, and they recorded the band’s self-titled debut. 2, as you might have guessed from its title, is their second effort.
So with that history lesson out of the way, we can get back to the music—and this album has plenty of strong material to discuss. 2 kicks off with the terrific one-two punch of “Trailer” and “Dreams of Flying,” two energetic rockers that show just how much fun Petty was having in the studio. Neither song is necessarily flashy—they both clock in under four minutes and offer few surprises—but they’re a perfect way to open up the record.
What follows is arguably the best song Mudcrutch ever recorded, “Beautiful Blue.” Around you there’s a color, Petty sings. A shade unlike the rest/ You’re laughing and you’re easy/ The way I know you best. “Beautiful Blue” is more than six minutes long, yet it only has a handful of lyrics. The rest of the song features the dueling guitars of Campbell and Leadon, who show off a bit without stealing away attention from the rest of the band. Tench has some fun as well, playing a gorgeous piano part in the song’s final moments that makes me wish it was at least a minute or two longer.
The other obvious highlight is “I Forgive It All,” a fingerpicked blues that finds Petty sounding somber and reflective. Forgiveness is a powerful thing, one that doesn’t always come easy, and Petty stating that he “forgives it all” is a powerful sentiment. Check the stirring music video, starring Anthony Hopkins, below …
One thing I love about 2 is that it features four different tracks written by band members other than Petty: Marsh’s “Beautiful World,” Leadon’s “The Other Side of the Mountain,” Tench’s “Welcome to Hell” and Campbell’s “Victim of Circumstance.” The guys even sing their respective songs, giving the album a much more laid-back, communal vibe than any Heartbreakers albums. And the songs are all legitimately good! Marsh’s “Beautiful World” is my favorite of the bunch, and it features one hell of a chorus. It’s a beautiful world, Marsh sings. So hold me tight/ I had to fight/ Every day of my life/ It’s a beautiful world.
Petty’s records almost always end on a high note, and he continued that trend on 2 with the slow-burning, powerful “Hungry No More.” Like “Beautiful Blue,” it features a lot of standout guitar work from Campbell and Leadon, including a memorable slide solo that closes out the album.
Overall, I think Mudcrutch’s 2 is one of the most underrated albums from Petty’s large discography. As heartbroken as I am that he’s gone, at least we have all of these incredible albums to go back and listen to again and again.