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Tom Petty

Highway Companion (American)

Reviewed by Darcie Stevens, Fri., Sept. 15, 2006

ACL Music Fest Reviews

Tom Petty

Highway Companion (American)

For 30 years, Tom Petty has quietly glued himself to the American landscape, his fingers strumming a beat-up Dove acoustic, his voice wavering just enough. His effortless sound wafts over decades of blacktop and arenas, a mirage of laughter and tears married with a sense of undying hope. Petty's third solo album and 13th overall is a glimpse into the soul of a music man. More introspective than anything he's ever released, Highway Companion flirts with fortitude, contentment, and the passing of time. With old friends Mike Campbell and Jeff Lynne at his side, Petty shines on "Flirting With Time," a warning to all who deem themselves invincible. The eerie-sweet maturity grows with "Down South." A child of the Deep South, Petty's simple familiarity crosses over into all facets of his songwriting: "Big Weekend" is nothing if not a head-nodder; "Night Driver" creates a color-hued image of a lonely man; and "Damaged by Love" is classic Petty – dusty, dented, and forgiving. Songs of love and loss scurry alongside acceptance and revelation. With the lone rocker opening the album – an instantly recognizable "Saving Grace" – Petty has garnered both the wisdom and respite to drop all caution. The feeling that this is the real Petty – no gimmicks, no show, no top hat – resounds. With three decades under his belt and a willingness to cut out the road warrior role, he's been completely absorbed into the American fabric. And on Highway Companion, Tom Petty has finally returned home. (Sunday, 8:30pm, AT&T stage)

****

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