Showing a growing disillusionment with the promise of freedom, “Highway Companion,” Tom Petty’s first solo effort in 12 years, is also his most personal and heartfelt to date. Melancholic road anthems like the blues-powered “Saving Grace” and hard-edged “Turn This Car Around” don’t stick to the usual script — they cast a dark shadow on the Great Wide Open instead of romanticizing it.
Heartbreakingly sparse, “Square One” may be Petty’s most beautiful song ever, while the melodic standout “Damaged by Love” offers a bittersweet coda to his ’80s classic “Here Comes My Girl.”
“It’s just really a nice collection of songs,” Petty says of the album, produced by longtime collaborator Jeff Lynne and out via Rick Rubin’s American Recordings imprint. “I think it does have an underlying theme of time and what it does to you.”
Petty played most of the instruments on “Highway Companion,” although Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell handled the lead guitar parts and Lynne chipped in on keyboards, bass and backing vocals. Petty and his band the Heartbreakers are on tour throughout the summer.