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Highway Companion

Highway Companion

4.7 4
by Tom Petty

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Tom Petty has described this disc -- his first studio outing in four years -- as something of a treatise on mortality, but rather than getting bogged down in downbeat musings about the ticking of his biological clock, Petty seems hell-bent on turning the affair into something of a celebration. Not that Highway Companion is some sort of Disney-esque exercise in


Tom Petty has described this disc -- his first studio outing in four years -- as something of a treatise on mortality, but rather than getting bogged down in downbeat musings about the ticking of his biological clock, Petty seems hell-bent on turning the affair into something of a celebration. Not that Highway Companion is some sort of Disney-esque exercise in accentuating the positive -- Petty is too smart a writer for that -- but there's something undeniably affirming in songs like the title track, which bears a sonic and psychic resemblance to "Running Down a Dream." A similar thread runs through "Saving Grace," a bluesy boogie number rife with references to a life spent on the road -- and realizations that it's been a life well spent. Blues touches abound on the disc, lending it more of a southern-fried feel than anything Petty's done in ages, particularly on low-slung riff-fests such as "Jack" and "Turn This Car Around." Highway Companion isn't all grits 'n' gravy, however. As befits a disc that reunites Petty with Traveling Wilburys partner Jeff Lynne, there's a hearty portion of harmony-heavy confectionary as well, highlighted by the bright and brassy "Big Weekend." Lynne and Petty never get carried away with studio frippery, however, and their no-nonsense approach -- strikingly reminiscent of the one behind 1989's Full Moon Fever -- fits both the songs and Petty's ragged-but-resilient frame of mind to a tee.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Tom Petty's concept for his third solo album is laid bare in its very title: it's called Highway Companion, which is a tip-off that this record was made with the road in mind. As it kicks off with the chugging Jimmy Reed-via-ZZ Top riff on "Saving Grace," the album does indeed seem to be ideal music for road trips, but Petty changes gears pretty quickly, down-shifting to the bittersweet acoustic "Square One." Although the album ramps back up with the '60s-styled pop of "Flirting with Time" and the swampy, Dylan-esque "Down South," the quick move to the ruminative is a good indication that for as good as Highway Companion can sound on the road, Petty looks inward on this album just as frequently as he looks outward. Perhaps this is the best indication that this is indeed a solo affair, not a rock & roll record with the Heartbreakers. Petty of course doesn't go it completely alone here: his longtime guitarist Mike Campbell is here as is producer/co-writer Jeff Lynne, who helmed Petty's 1989 solo debut, Full Moon Fever, and the Heartbreakers' 1991 Into the Great Wide Open and now returns to the fold 15 years later. Lynne's previous Petty productions were so bright, big, and shiny, they would have been suitable for an ELO album, and given that track record, it would be easy to assume that he would follow the same template for Highway Companion, but that's not the case at all. Highway Companion has as much in common with the rustic, handmade overtones of 1994's Wildflowers as it does with the pop sheen of Full Moon Fever -- it is precise and polished, yet it's on a small scale, lacking the layers of overdubs that distinguish Lynne's production, and the end result is quite appealing, since it's at once modest but not insular. But Highway Companion also feels a little off, as if Petty is striving to make a fun rock & pop record -- a soundtrack for the summer, or at least a good drive -- but his heart is in making a melancholy introspective album, where he's grappling with getting older. This gives the album a sad undercurrent even at its lightest moments, which makes it ideal for driving alone late at night. Since it arrives after the bombastic The Last DJ, it's refreshing to hear Petty underplay his themes here, and it also helps that Lynne helps toughen up his songcraft. All this makes Highway Companion at the very least another typically reliable collection from Petty, but at its core, it's moodier than most of his records. It has a lot in common with Petty's divorce album, Echo, but it's coming from a different place -- one that's content, yet still unsettled. That may mean that this album isn't quite as fun as it initially seems on the surface, but that bittersweet undercurrent does indeed make Highway Companion a good partner for long nights on the road.
Rolling Stone - Alan Light
1/2 Highway Companion is worth the trip.
Entertainment Weekly - Clark Collis
[Grade: A-] These songs are, in their melancholic way, quite excellent, with Petty demonstrating a creative joie de vivre even when spinning tales decidedly lacking in joie.
Billboard - Sven Philipp
Petty's first solo effort in 12 years is also his most personal and heartfelt to date.... Heartbreakingly sparse, "Square One" may be Petty's most beautiful song ever.
Boston Globe - Sarah Rodman
In 12 elegant, spare, and instantly singable tracks, you can hear the 55-year-old recognizing that the sands in the hourglass are more plentiful in the bottom than the top.
Los Angeles Times - Randy Lewis
[Petty] cruises slowly down the back roads of what most often feels like the South of his youth, making this a journey of considerable self-assessment.... The result resembles impressionistic tone poems.
Atlanta Journal Constitution - Shane Harrison
[Grade: B+] The singer delivers another batch of solid pleasure on his third solo release.... Few artists make albums this strong more than 30 years into a career.
San Francisco Chronicle - Jaan Uhelszki
Petty...has reached down into the deepest part of his battered Southern soul and returned with a frank, poetic assessment of the things that go bump in his own dark night, crafting songs full of worry, prophecy and then an elegant acceptance of his choices.
The Guardian - Dave Simpson
Only a voice of true experience could deliver Flirting With Time, the most achingly honest moment of an album of beautifully delivered, uncomfortable home truths.
Los Angeles Daily News - Fred Shuster
A dozen haunting, sparingly fleshed-out songs that find Petty facing down mortality and wondering where all the years went.
Hartford Courant - Eric R. Danton
Up-tempo rockers sizzle alongside folksy acoustic numbers, all of them loaded with searching lyrics about counting one's blessings, paying one's debts and starting fresh.

Product Details

Release Date:
Warner Bros / Wea


Album Credits

Performance Credits

Tom Petty   Primary Artist,Bass,Guitar,Harmonica,Drums,Bass Guitar,Rhythm Guitar,Keyboards,Electric Piano,Vocals,Background Vocals
Jeff Lynne   Bass,Guitar,Autoharp,Bass Guitar,Rhythm Guitar,Keyboards,Background Vocals
Mike Campbell   Guitar,Vibes

Technical Credits

Jeff Lynne   Producer,Audio Production
Tom Petty   Composer,Producer,Art Direction,Audio Production
Mike Campbell   Audio Production
Ryan Ulyate   Engineer
Steve McGrath   Engineer

Customer Reviews

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Highway Companion 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Truly a great album. Thank the higher power that people like Tom Petty are still making valid music. Highway companion is a must for any Petty fan. It is clearly his best work since Wildflowers.
Guest More than 1 year ago
All 12 tracks are good, ALL 12! This album is awesome!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is one of the best albums I've heard in many years.Thanks Tom Petty, ya still got it!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
WOW, this album blew me away. Tom's 'Square one' ROX DUDE!!!!!! KEEP ROCKIN' TOM.