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The Dirty Knobs - Wreckless Abandon

by Richard J. Lynch

The Dirty Knobs are in a way a grittier turn on the music made by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Of course, out front is Tom's long time foil Mike Campell who wrote and produced dozens of tracks with the man we all still miss dearly today. Still, no one misses him more than Mike. Drafted into Tom's bands as a young teenager and raised in the same southern swamp environment the two shared a musical education and remarkably - a similar vocal styling. It's no coincidence that Campbell's long-running side project took until late 2020 to finally release their debut full release album Wreckless Abandon. But, it was worth the wait.

While the comparisons are inevitable the Knobs do make several nods to the legendary output of their prolific progenitor. When Campbell reprises the phrase "buzz awhile" at the smoking end of "Loaded Gun" you can't help but remember Tom saying the same words from his classic "Honey Bee". The prior track "Aw Honey" also drips with Petty's spirit and spunk and "Anna Lee" is similar to the patented and plaintive pleading love songs that Tom perfected over the years.

But, there are differences, too. First of all - the group is a four piece - so they can't rely on Benmont for the classy and jazzy runs that added so much to the Heartbreakers' appeal. This is a guitar oriented album and all the takes and solos were recorded live with the band playing all at once. That type of challenge in the studio often doesn't pan out. But, Mike and The Dirty Knobs approached the project with "Wreckless Abandon" and the first single of the same name is just as good as anything as he's put his name on over five decades. Overall - the album's 13 solid and sonically adventurous tracks serve to keep the legacy of both Campbell and Tom Petty alive and moving forward.

"Losing Tom was earth-shattering for me. It was a total shock," Campbell says. "It had felt like we would be playing together forever. For a while it was hard to imagine playing in my own band again, let alone one where I'm the frontman. Tom was always my beacon. But everything I've been doing since Tom passed, including this album with The Dirty Knobs, is in the spirit of honoring what we did together."


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