Tom Petty has been putting out fantastic rock 'n' roll for almost 20 years. His new album, "Wildflowers," not only lives up to his standards, but helps set new ones.
The primary reason this album is so fantastic is that Petty sticks to his old style of rough guitar and harmonica. "You Don't Know How It Feels," the first single and video off the album, shows this style better than any other song. From the introduction, with a piercing harmonica scale to the chorus, Petty crafts a song equal to that of his classics, "Refugee" and "American Girl."
The entire album puts forth an image of a warm, rugged outdoorsman. The baseline in "Cabin Down Below" helps portray this image, and the song's simple chorus of "Baby, let's go"' makes it the kind of song you don't get out of your head for a long time.
Many of the songs are traditional Tom Petty songs in the sense of the simple chorus and the loud, mean guitar. This simplicity of the lyrics, mixed with the complexity of the guitar adds to the rugged imagery. From a language perspective, the lyrics may seem a little questionable: "Her juju beads are so nice/She kissed my third cousin twice/I'm the king of Pomona" seems a bit random. But the scratchy voice of Petty singing these is equally as strange, and combined, they create a
As with all of Petty's albums, he takes a try at some ballad pieces. "Don't Fade on Me" and "It's Good to be King" leave a little to be desired, as they are a 360E turn from the other songs. But the title track, "Wildflowers" works amazingly, with instruments like the harpsichord and harmonium giving the piece a folk sound to go with the Western motif. This song, played with the volume up, produces an image of Petty sitting on a deserted countryside, playing acoustic guitar, with the sun shining down as hard as possible. Petty sings "You belong among the Wildflowers/You belong somewhere close to me/Far away from your trouble and worry/You belong somewhere you feel free," and his lyrics come to life. For three short minutes, your worries and troubles actually do disappear, and warmth fills your body. It is a remarkable feeling.
Long ago, Tom Petty proved he had the skill and talent to make it in the rock 'n' roll industry. Unlike many musicians, he continues to craft his music and to allow this talent to show through. "Wildflowers" is a step forward for Petty, but is also a flash of the past; it brings memories of time-honored songs and has some instant classics on it as well
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.