Tom Petty, Highway Companion (American Recordings, 2006)

No matter what kind of tangent my musical tastes may be wandering off on at a given moment, I invariably wind up craving some good old fashioned, straightforward, two guitars, bass, drum and maybe some keyboard no-frills rock and roll. This is why I always look forward to new releases from Tom Petty. Sure you can argue that he's predictable -- and he certainly doesn't throw any curve balls on his latest album Highway Companion -- but he's also very dependable. For Highway Companion, Petty gave most of the Heartbreakers the session off. Only Petty, Heartbreakers lead guitarist Mike Campbell, and producer and fellow Traveling Wilbury Jeff Lynne perform on the recording. (In case you were wondering, Petty handles the drums himself and does an acceptable job.) The sound of the album is a bit laid back on the whole, but more or less what you'd expect from Petty. The songs are melodic, the playing is solid, and the style is guitar rock in its purest form. Highway Companion may not string together one memorable song after another the way Full Moon Fever did, but every song is at least decent. The stand-out tracks are the bluesy "Saving Grace" and the upbeat "Flirting With Time." Both would make excellent singles, and could conceivably win Petty some new fans. Even if that doesn't happen, long-time fans of Tom Petty will have no difficulty getting into Highway Companion.

Overall Grade: B+

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