Various Artists

Pickin' on Tom Petty: Heartbreaker -- A Bluegrass Tribute

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A lot of the Pickin' On entries are closer to being running jokes than they are actual albums, often proving no more than the fact that almost any melody can be given a bluegrass cadence and veneer. This one, which takes on the songs of rocker Tom Petty, doesn't break from the template a whole lot, but it does reveal how melodic Petty can be underneath all those electric guitars and that patented sneering vocal delivery, and the end result is more pleasant than one might expect. The ensemble here, which features ex-Byrd Chris Hillman on mandolin, Tom Corbett on guitar and mandolin, Tom Ball on harmonica, and David West on everything else, including Dobro, bass, and banjo, has a calm (for bluegrass), fluid approach to things, and tracks like "Into the Great Wide Open," "Learning to Fly," and the intricate "Don't Come Around Here No More" are close to being revelations in the bluegrass style. In the end, though, so much of what makes Petty songs work are all those electric guitars and that rock & roll attitude, and to hear songs like "Mary Jane's Last Dance" placed in this context is downright laughable. The melody of the song transfers into a bluegrass setting, but the gist of the song doesn't.

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