I rarely blind buy new music these days. Almost every album gets a spin on YouTube or Spotify before I put real money toward a physical copy. I pre-order to lock in the cheaper price, stream before the release date and cancel the pre-order if I don’t like what I hear. This strategy has been working out well for me over the last few years. I can’t remember the last time I had buyers remorse over an album, but it almost happened with Wreckless Abandon.
The Dirty Knobs is led by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers lead guitarist and co-writer on many tunes, Mike Campbell. The line up includes:
Mike Campbell – Lead vocals, Guitar
Jason Sinay – Guitar
Matt Laug – Drums
Lance Morrison – Bass
Having never released an album or gigged outside of the LA area before, The Dirty Knobs served as a fun diversion for Campbell over the past 15 years for whenever Tom wasn’t keeping him busy. Tom’s passing in 2017 eased Campbell’s time restraints and Wreckless Abandon was written and recorded in 2019. A release date was set for March 20th of this year with a tour set to begin on March 10th. And… well… we all know how that went.
As a Tom Petty diehard, I was naturally very interested in Wreckless Abandon but I still did want to give it a listen on Spotify first. When it was finally released on November 20th, I streamed it right away, and enjoyed what I heard. I let my amazon order go through.
I first listened to the CD in the car, and after the first few songs it really didn’t feel like what I remembered. I do admit, I usually stream these albums at work were I’m easily distracted by… work. So maybe I wasn’t paying attention.
The first track, Wreckless Abandon is fine enough. It feels like something that Tom Petty would have easily approved of. The most glaring element of The Dirty Knobs is how Campbell’s cadence on vocals is very close to Tom’s.
My problem began though with the next track, Pistol Packin’ Mama. This one is a country rocker and it kind of stinks. The lyrics didn’t really do it for me:
Oh my my my, ain’t you something?
Tell me why why why you want to be pumping me with lead
Pistol packin’ mama, don’t you point that thing at me
I saw on the back of the CD that this song features Chris Stapleton. I heard of the name but I’m still not sure who he is. Some country guy, I guess. I was ready to blame him for this but I can’t. We’ll get to why later.
Next was Sugar. It is a fine enough rock song that uses those big Muddy Water’s like pauses after the riff is played. A great device when used well. For some reason here, the drummer adds a hard knock on the cowbell during it. I don’t know why this bothers me but it does.
Damn, I was not having a good time. I thought…
The album took a 180° for the better once, Southern Boy kicked in. It is a rockin’ tune with a John Lee Hooker boogie beat that hooks me in every time. Now we are getting to that “Dirty Heartbreakers” sound that I was expecting! Get on that train!
Everything was smooth sailing form that point on. I Still Love You is a bit of a slow burn but a good ballad with a sharp guitar solo from Campbell. Irish Girl is a pretty acoustic ballad with the harmonica lead in the back ground.
Getting back to Chris Stapleton, he is listed as a co-writer on the next little ditty called Fuck That Guy. I love everything about it. Including the lyrics:
Well look at that clown dressed up like Charles Dickens
Sneaking around like Slim Pickens
If he was a woman, he’d think he was God’s gift to man
Gonna stick his head in a garbage can
Ah fuck that guy
Yea, fuck that guy
It ‘ought to be a crime
He ain’t no friend of mine
Fuck that guy
Yeah, it doesn’t take much to amuse me. Any tune with a reference to Slim Pickens already gets bonus points from me. The shuffle beat tickles me even more. Oh, and I’ve just watched the video. Hilarious:
Stapleton is on my good side now.
A couple more tunes lean heavy into the blues. You have more JLH boogie beat with Don’t Knock the Boogie and Don’t Wait has a Buddy Guy feel.
Anna Lee is has a sweet country flair that could easily pass for a Heartbreakers tune. Aw Honey and Loaded Gun round out the back end with some straight up rock. I caught a low key “buzz awhile” during Loaded Gun‘s instrumental interlude, a nod to Tom Petty’s Honey Bee.
To my great relief, those two songs close to the top of the album turned out to be just a bump in the road. The rest is solid while clocking in at a 56 minute run time. That is usually overlong for me, but skipping Pistol Packin’ Mama and Sugar cures that.
Wreckless Abandon at times does come across as a collection of demos Campbell would have presented to Tom before he would work his magic on them. But Campbell taps into the Heartbreakers spirit very well making this a fun album to listen to. I feel confident in saying if you miss Tom, The Dirty Knobs help to fill the void.