The Dirty Knobs | Wreckless Abandon | (BMG)
3 out of 5 Stars
Guitarist Mike Campbell has never been lacking as far as effort or ambition. That was apparent even prior to Tom Petty’s passing, as evidenced by the crucial role he played not only as Petty’s guitar foil and co-writer in the Heartbreakers, but also by the list of notables with whom he’s served — Bob Dylan, Don Henley, Stevie Nicks, Fleetwood Mac, Roger McGuinn, John Prine, Warren Zevon and Jackson Browne among the many.
Now with another full-time group in tow, dubiously dubbed the Dirty Knobs, Campbell chooses to revisit his roots. Wreckless Abandon, the band’s presumptuously titled debut, deflates any expectation that he’s out to create any Petty patchwork. However, it’s also inaccurate to consider the group simply his star vehicle. While he’s the only Knob with any actual marquee value, the other members — guitarist Jason Sinay, drummer Matt Laug and bassist Lance Morrison — help procure the taut yet tenacious sounds that dominate the album overall. “Loaded Gun,” “Pistol Packin’ Mama” (featuring special guest Chris Stapleton), “Sugar” and “Fuck That Guy” demonstrate the prerequisite grit and swagger. The title track itself is a Stones-like standout as well as a good example of the group’s insurgent stance.
The familiarity factor is further established with the album’s bluesier bluster, heard in songs such as “Don’t Wait,” “Aw Honey,” “I Still Love You,” “Southern Boy” and “Don’t Knock the Boogie,” the latter repeated with both electric and acoustic reads. “Anna Lee,” on the other hand, offers a sweet taste of country comfort that recalls the Faces when fronted by Ronnie Lane, that band’s late bassist.
Indeed, Campbell has always expressed his admiration for those that served throughout the so-called British Invasion in the ’60s and ’70s. Here, however, Campbell seems reluctant to imbue a significant imprint of his own. It leaves little that hasn’t been rehashed dozens of times before. That makes Wreckless Abandon nowhere neither as daring or distinctive as its title otherwise implies.