( Reprise, 2008 )
Unslushed because: Well, it certainly wasn’t for the horrific artwork or the group’s name, both of which evoke the second-string covers band at last year’s Sigma Alpha spring fling. No, unslushing in this case was precipitated by a sticker that listed band members Tom Petty, Mike Campbell, and Benmont Tench. A note inside—”Recorded live, vocals, harmony, everything; Arrangements done on studio floor; Made in 10 days, no headphones”—led me to wonder if this wouldn’t turn out to be one hell of a garage stomp.
Factors not initially considered: Rather than a new band, this is a reunion of Petty’s Gainesville, Florida, pre-Heartbreakers lineup, also featuring drummer Randall Marsh and guitarist Tom Leadon. The band formed in 1970, got signed to Leon Russell’s Shelter Records, and broke up in 1975 before issuing an album.
On further review: You hate to be a hater when it comes to heartwarming stories like this, yet clearly there was a reason that these guys never quite put it together. This mild country-rock collection of covers and half-baked Petty originals might have been necessary for personal closure, or to honor some clause in Petty’s contract with Warner Bros. (apparently a live EP is on the way, too), but otherwise it’s quite the opposite of necessary: Dull and self-indulgent, it’s a waste of time for every last person involved except, maybe, the two dudes who didn’t get to be in the Heartbreakers—which, to take the depressing affair one step further, would make this a pity album. Although the playing is competent, and Roger McGuinn and Jacques Levy’s “Lover of the Bayou” gets a decent enough treatment, we were all better off when Mudcrutch was merely a legend. If only Leon Russell failed to release this one, too.