Southern Accents (1985)


 
1. Rebels 2. It Ain't Nothin' to Me 3. Don't Come Around Here No More 4. Southern Accents 5. Make it Better (Forget About Me) 6. Spike 7. Dogs on the Run 8. Mary's New Car 9. The Best of Everything

 

While it's probably documented somewhere, I can only speculate on how and why this album may have come to pass. Petty had been in a bit of a slump during the past few years, his last two albums failing to capture the magic of 1979's Damn the Torpedoes. He probably took a good, hard look at what he was doing as well as what was going on around him, and decided a major shakeup was needed. Not an easy thing to do. As a matter of fact, during one of the recording sessions, he got frustrated, punched a wall and seriously jeopardized his future as a guitar player with a badly wounded hand. Fortunately, all was well with the hand eventually, and I would say that this album is a minor triumph.

No, it's not a classic. It could have been, but there are far more positives than negatives. First, the title and album cover may mislead someone who hasn't actually heard the album. One might expect something of the Lynard Skynard or Allman Brother's Band vein, especially with Petty sporting a rather beaten down trailer park image himself. Yet there's not really anything that remotely resembles such a style of music. Instead, this is one of those records where a "simple" artist pulls out all the stops, adds every possible ingredient to alter the taste of the music, and yet still manage to sound like his old self.

There are a few songs with "southern" lyrics - the slow, introspective title cut and the roaring opening song Rebels, but again, these songs don't really have any particular southern flavor. They're both strong cuts though, managing, as stated earlier, to fall somewhat away from the standard Tom Petty formula. The Rebels song is complete with brass section, as are many of the songs on here. Fortunately they're comfortably somewhat hidden in the mix, so this doesn't come across as a "horn" album. Speaking of different instruments, the biggest turnaround in style belongs to the psychedelic spacey Don't Come Around Here No More featuring a guest spot from The Eurythmics' Dave Stewart. How they got such a bizarre song to sound so good just shows you how talented Petty and his band mates can be.

The other highlight is the catchy, humorous Spike about a guy that wears a dog collar and a bunch of homeboys that are somewhat amused by this as they observe his antics. Much of the rest of the album tends to get a bit bogged down at times. It Ain't Nothing to Me is another one of those songs that is bombarded by instrumentation, and it doesn't sound that bad, but it tends to sound a little too similar to Make It Better (Forget About Me) so the overall experience gets diminished somewhat.

Where Petty pushes the envelope and is successful, he's very successful, and when he falters, he never falls too far from grace. Despite what a lot of naysayers may say about this album, it has a strong overall feel that has a lot of overall strengths.

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