Though Tom Petty’s career with the Heartbreakers is legendary, his best work has arguably come on his solo outings, “Full Moon Fever” and “Wildflowers.” His third solo album, “Highway Companion,” is another finely crafted collection of songs, though it’s noticeably more somber than the former two.
Petty’s been through some rough times in the last decade’ divorce, deaths, declining sales’ and he sounds weary. Only the lead single, “Saving Grace,” manages to romp, while the rest of the album finds a vulnerable Petty seeking solace in uncomplicated lyrics, melodies and chord progressions. This spare approach suits the songs, which employ travel as a metaphor for life. Highlights include “Damaged by Love,” which is devastatingly beautiful in its simplicity, and “Square One,” a folk song about redemption that actually delivers it.
While “Highway Companion” could use some variation, it’s a testament to Petty’s ridiculous ability to paint with few colors and still create a masterpiece.
– Michael Franco