cd reviews pop/rock

Mudcrutch, "Mudcrutch" (Reprise)

Mudcrutch -- pre-Heartbreakers members Tom Petty, Benmont Tench and Mike Campbell, along with Tom Leadon and Randall Marsh -- never released an album despite a regional following in Florida in the early '70s. Had the group as it sounds in these 14 songs appeared back then, it might well have gone little noticed amid the proliferation of bands mixing rock, country, bluegrass and folk traditions. Today, however, it's a breath of fresh air. It's rock the old-school way -- born of real-time collaboration and realized with heaps of joy and sweat. Mudcrutch's songs are sung by Petty, with Leadon and Tench taking over on occasion, and they span the heartland rock that long has been the Heartbreakers' stock in trade to the earthier likes of the bluegrass standard "Shady Grove." "This Is a Good Street" is especially appealing, a swampy groove about valuing what's good in life. "Six Days on the Road" is a testament to Mudcrutch's formative period as a top-flight bar band, and "Scare Easy" lands squarely in Heartbreakers land, missing only the jangling electric guitars. The nine-minute "Crystal River" and the similarly exploratory "Bootleg Flyer" make Petty's desire to reconstitute Mudcrutch clear. The instrumental interplay, particularly among guitarists Campbell and Leadon, extends beyond the Heartbreakers' signature corner of pop into Allman Brothers, Crazy Horse, even Grateful Dead territory. 5311

RANDY LEWIS, LOS ANGELES TIMES

COUNTRY

Phil Stacey, "Phil Stacey" (Lyric Street)

The two best "American Idol" projects in country music so far belong to Bucky Covington, who worked with Sawyer Brown's Mark Miller a year ago, and Stacey, working with Little Big Town producer Wayne Kirkpatrick for this debut. Both discs feel like the work of artists with some vision and transcend the TV show's formulaic tendencies. "Stacey" hews closer to mainstream country (too close on the passable single "If You Didn't Love Me"). But when Stacey, a good singer with natural charisma, gets hold of excellent material such as the harmony-laden rocker "'Round Here" or the graceful mid-tempo "No Way Around a River," he proves that he's a contender. 5312

HOWARD COHEN, MIAMI HERALD

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