Tom Petty Highway Companion
CD Review by Brian McAlley
/ 9/2006

Track listing
1. Saving Grace 2. Square One 3. Flirting With Time 4. Down South 5. Jack
6. Turn This Car Around 7. Big Weekend 8. Night Driver 9. Damaged By Love
10. This Old Town 11. Ankle Deep 12. The Golden Rose

Label: American / Release date: July 25, 2006

Tom Petty's third solo release, "Highway Companion" is a far more enjoyable effort than his previous Heartbreakers project, "The Last DJ" on which Petty cantankerously vented his frustrations with the record industry and modern pop culture in general. In fact, "Highway Companion" could arguably be considered one of the best albums he's ever released, with or without the Heartbreakers.

Petty's longtime friend Jeff Lynne, who produced his 1989 solo debut, "Full Moon Fever" and the Heartbreakers' "Into the Great Wide Open" from 1991, is at the helm once again. This time around he takes a detour from his usual high-gloss, polished style (e.g. Electric Light Orchestra) and creates a more rustic and simplistic sound similar to "Full Moon Fever." And with overdubs kept to a minimum, Lynne creates more of a "live in the studio" sound that is very complementary to Petty's material.

The 12 original numbers on "Highway Companion" are performed by Petty, who plays most of the instruments (including drums on every track), Heartbreaker Mike Campbell on lead guitar, and Lynne who rounds out the trio playing bass, occasional guitar and keyboards. There are upbeat numbers like the leadoff track, "Saving Grace" with its chugging ZZ Top influence, and on the other end of the spectrum there are brooding and introspective tunes like the bittersweet acoustic-laden "Square One," where Petty sings about making mistakes in life and how he eventually finds his way.

The disc contains some of Petty's most sensitive and poignant material, as he bares his soul and deals with real-life situations that we can all relate to. It's a very appealing combination of Petty originals that seem intentionally tailor-made for one of those long road trips in the car hence the title, "Highway Companion."