Classic rock fans fear no more: Tom Petty’s back

Jackie Mantey

Forget the Heartbreakers.

In Tom Petty’s most recent of three solo albums, it seems that this man does not stop.

In Highway Companion, Petty brings back a sound classic rock fans have been missing in an era filled with painful emo songs and redundant rap beats.

The album is concise, and Petty delivers the simple but infective sounds he is famous for.

Breaking into the scene in 1976 with his supporting band The Heartbreakers, the group reached the Top 40 in 1977 after “Breakdown” was re-released.

Since then, Petty and his music have been difficult to classify. Fans of almost every genre listen to the Florida boy, and his current tour is with the Allman Brothers Band and The Strokes. Petty acquired his musical interest from the King of Rock himself, Elvis Presley, and said Nirvana was the most significant thing since the Beatles.

This range in his love of music is evident in his latest work as we hear an obvious development from the less-than-satisfying 2002 work The Last DJ. It is appropriate that Highway Companion — his first in four years — is about the passing of time.

Staying consistent with the theme, each song describes the struggle of moving on, and the pain of going through the motions. It’s easy to get lost in the steady rhythm of each song and colorful bridges.

Seemingly intended and crafted to take on road trips, the solid technique and combination of lyrics and satisfying sound make you want to listen to it in more places than just the car.

The riveting poetry of “Down South” has striking lyrics of the twinge of finding oneself and family as he explains, “One more time down South/ sell the family headstones/ drag a bag of dry bones/ make good on my back loans.”

The complexities of “Down South” are followed by the songs that profess the simple definitiveness of seeking and losing love.

The optimistic “Jack” tells of getting his baby back, while “Damaged By Love” counteracts the confidence.

That strong element of variety in content doesn’t quite make up for its lack in harmonic variety, however.

Highway Companion needs a change in the middle. With a Bob Dylan-reminiscent rhythm and syncopation, it doesn’t have the kick you would expect. The mellowness of the album is comforting, but it needs that moment of high-speed energy we expect out of Petty.

Despite the static sounds of a few songs, Highway Companion is well-suited for any ride — figuratively or literally.

Contact editor Jackie Mantey at [email protected].