Mudcrutch

2

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Tom Petty reunited his original Gainesville band Mudcrutch for a lark in 2008. Their eponymous album and short accompanying tour didn't carry the feeling of unfinished business so much as a good-natured ramble through the past. Some old originals were excavated, new songs written, and old favorites covered, all wrapped up in a charmingly ragged little record that gave Petty a bit of a creative jolt. Afterward, he led the Heartbreakers through excursions in blues and garage rock, but that relaxed country-rock vibe proved irresistible, so he reconvened Mudcrutch for a second record in 2016. Titled 2, this second Mudcrutch LP isn't quite a straight sequel. Any of the loose ends left hanging from 2008 have been tied: 2 is streamlined and tight, the cover songs excised in favor of brand-new compositions from every member of Mudcrutch. Just because all five musicians contribute at least one song, that doesn't necessarily make Mudcrutch a democracy. Petty remains the quintet's undisputed leader, writing seven of the 11 songs and setting the tone for 2, emphasizing a thick, swampy guitar grind that nevertheless finds space for the country breeze of Tom Leadon's "The Other Side of the Mountain," Randall Marsh's AM '70s throwback "Beautiful World," Benmont Tench's retro-boogie "Welcome to Hell," and Mike Campbell's garage raver "Victim of Circumstance." All of these provide grace notes to a strong set of Petty originals that range from heartbroken ballads ("Beautiful Blue") and psychedelic stompers ("Hope") to Byrdsian jangle ("Save Your Water") and a revival of "Trailer," a Southern Accents outtake given a nice sludgy rendition illustrating that the main charm of Mudcrutch is their casualness. Nobody here is attempting a major statement; they're simply laying back and tossing off songs, but 2 is executed with precision, which is what keeps it crackling. It's a good-time record, but one intended to showcase how Mudcrutch hit harder and dig a bit deeper than they initially seemed to do.

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