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Published: 2016/06/28
by Jordan Smith

Mudcrutch in Nashville

Photo by Larry Hulst

Mudcrutch, Ryman Auditorium, Nashville, TN- 5/31

Following the long Memorial Day weekend, 2,362 souls packed the sold out Ryman Auditorium to hear the gospel of Mudcrutch, Tom Petty’s band before The Heartbreakers formed in Los Angeles in 1976. All five of the talented members are from North Florida, and their sun shower soaked music is pure Gainesville. Tuesday night, the classic rockers took the crowd to church in the historic downtown Nashville theatre.

Mudcrutch started out strong with the rousing folk revival tune “Shady Grove” as the thousands of happy feet tapped on the aged wooden floors. Petty introduced the group as a “Southern rock psychedelic swamp jam band”. He said it. They launched back in to “Orphan of the Storm”, and continued with their perfected tunes off their first self-titled record released in 2008. That album is a mix of new songs and old from when the band formed in 1970. Petty mentioned their 46 year relationship and said, “We’re so happy to be running together again on tour. We did six shows a week, and this is a song we used to do back then.” Petty kept the bass line rocking on the spirited American traveling anthem “Six Days on the Road”.

Mudcrutch is Tom Petty on bass guitar and vocals, Tom Leadon on guitar and vocals, Randall Marsh on drums, plus two members who went on to be Heartbreakers, guitarist Mike Campbell and keyboardist Benmont Tench.

During “Scare Easy,” the band’s unified rhythm echoed through the Ryman. These men have been playing together longer than some of the audience filling the pews has been alive. They were totally in sync and fluid, looking and sounding like the rock stars they are. Tench grooved on the keys and percussion and Randy Marsh looked victorious with his arms outstretched. The attitude and confident nature of the music spread in the room.

“We got a new album out called Mudcrutch 2. You can actually buy it on vinyl with a big hole in the middle,” Petty reminded the crowd as they introduced the first track off the new record, “Trailer”. The new album was released on May 20 and is a terrific follow-up to their first. They followed with “This Is a Good Street”, a tune written by Tench. The band performed their cover of the Byrds’ “Lover of the Bayou” and the 124 year old auditorium was filled with a distinctly swampy vibe. Feet were stomping on the Southern pine floors as the dim light of the sunset filtered in through stained glass windows.

Petty frequently spoke between songs, and must have said “Thank you” at least ten times throughout the night. It’s clear that this group is truly enjoying playing together again, and planted seeds of gratitude and joy in the audience.

“If you don’t know he story of Mudcrutch, Google it”, Petty stated, before introducing each member. The crowd cheered at mention that guitarist Leadon is now local to Nashville. A nod was given to vocalist Herb Peterson, as well as the fact that Tench is “still with us”. Petty introduced Campbell as “one of rock and roll’s truly great guitar players.” Campbell truly can shred like no other. Finally, Petty presented drummer Marsh, and said “he’s gonna sing one he wrote for the new album now,” as they fell into the harmoniously upbeat “Beautiful World”. They went on in to “Dreams of Flying,” which sounds as if it could’ve been penned decades ago.

Leadon and Petty talked about running around Gainesville together in the Sixties. “Two things I really admired,” Leadon listed about the groups’ bassist, “his driver’s license and keys to his mother’s car. We were cruising.”

“In nine days we are cruising to New York City. Tom is being inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame,” Leadon continued. He introduced the next song as one of the first written by Petty in 1969, the “fourth song he wrote that he wasn’t afraid to show the band. We did it and it came out okay.” They bounced through the lively “Save Your Water”, with a tightness earned from over 40 years of practice.

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