Tom Petty returns after a 4 year absence with 'Highway Companion.' Produced by fellow Wilbury Jeff Lynne the CD features 12 selections of Petty's finest songwriting to date. Along with Petty and Lynne the only other musician on the CD is longtime Heartbreaker Mike Campbell, making this a true solo album. This also marks the first CD for Tom's new label at American Recordings. Tom will be out on tour throughout the summer with such artists as The Strokes, Frank Black and John Meyer.
Four years after he took Elvis Costello's advice and bit the music/radio biz hands that have simultaneously fed and frustrated him for decades on the scabrous The Last DJ
, Tom Petty returned to the studio with more personally introspective matters on his mind. Reuniting with producer/Wilbury sideman Jeff Lynne sans Heartbreakers for his third solo release proper, the veteran doesn't so much retool his trademark sound here as allow it the freedom to roam. The sonic landscape here is bluesier ("Saving Grace's opening shuffle, the haunting "Turn This Car Around") and more country-fried (the twangy energy of the blue collar lament "Big Weekend"), a return to familiar roots that produces subtly different results this time around. That sensibility now seasons songs as different as the stoned-elegant languor of "Night Driver" and the playful "Jack," where Petty and Lynn give a knowing nod and wink to the contemporary pop milieu. The stately, pop-perfect closer "Golden Rose" may lean on the Beatle-y side of their familiar sound, but it's a cliché the duo use both sparingly and shrewdly throughout, forging one of the veteran's most free-ranging and warmly satisfying efforts in a decade. Jerry McCulley
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