Tom Petty's third album without the Heartbreakers, 2006's HIGHWAY COMPANION, finds the revered singer-songwriter reuniting with fellow Traveling Wilbury Jeff Lynne (formerly of Electric Light Orchestra) for the first time since their fruitful late-1980s/early-'90s collaborations, which yielded FULL MOON FEVER (Petty's initial solo outing) and INTO THE GREAT WIDE OPEN. The resulting record recalls the former disc in particular, albeit with a shimmering 21st-century sound, helping Petty's ever-charming, traditionally minded aesthetic to sound fresh three decades into his career. Highlights of COMPANION include the hard-edged "Saving Grace," the gentle "Square One," and the twangy "Big Weekend," which wonderfully showcase the rock, folk, and alt-country sides of this dynamic artist, respectively. As on past joint projects, Lynne's more ornate inclinations are perfectly tempered by Petty's no-frills approach, allowing the latter's distinctively plaintive vocals to rise over the surprisingly straightforward arrangements. Arguably Petty's best album since '94's revered WILDFLOWERS, HIGHWAY COMPANION is an assured set of songs by one of America's finest rock artists.
Rolling Stone (p.94) - 3.5 stars out of 4 -- "His songs are filled with images of motion, travel and the road; the sharpest writing appears in the cryptic, evocative 'Down South'..."
Entertainment Weekly (p.67) - "[T]hese songs are, in their melancholic way, quite excellent, with Petty demonstrating a creative joie de vivre even when spinning tales decidedly lacking in joie." -- Grade: A-
Q (p.110) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "[The album] has the reassuring purr of a vintage Cadillac being given its annual spin along a coast road."
Q (p.116) - Ranked #81 in Q Magazine's "100 Greatest Albums of 2006."
Uncut (p.84) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "There's no doubt he's re-energised. Musically and textually, this instant classic introduces the theme of motion, locating HIGHWAY COMPANION on a highway that leads nowhere certain."
No Depression (p.118) - "HIGHWAY COMPANION is a polished, patient work by an artist who still loves a good twang but is too honest to hang on to old poses..."