The Dirty Knobs “Wreckless Abandon” and their official release show at The Troubadour on 11/20/2020 Reviewed
To write about Mike Campbell is nearly impossible without mentioning Tom Petty, separating the two for the sake of a review is like splitting conjoined twins. With Tom’s tragic passing in 2017 the severing of Mike’s “Co-Pilot” and best friend was done with the precision of a chain saw. Make no mistake, Mike lost his best friend since they were teenagers. They were partners in a journey that took them to the height of a music business that was struggling itself with an identity crisis. While the industry morphed and changed, they just stayed true to their sound. Years later, the biz caught up, sort of.
So it’s to be expected this grieving process will take some time. Three years later, cut to COVID and a worldwide pandemic where we find a locked-down Mike Campbell in his house, playing, writing and helping all TPATHB fans get through “the grieving process” with a regular dose of his social media mini clips, playing songs he’s written over the years and playing covers, never more than 2 minutes but almost every one with a backstory presented with his insight.
And before you ask, I’m going to completely side-step the Fleetwood Mac discussion. But allow me to troll you, Mike is a much better guitar player.
Now to “The Dirty Knobs.”
So who are The Dirty Knobs, you ask? Mike Campbell, guitar and vocals, Jason Sinay, guitar and vocals, Matt Laug, drums and backing vocals and Lance Morrison, bass and backing vocals.
Between TPATHB tours, Mike would get together with “The Knobs” to work through material he’d written. Some of the songs would get presented to Tom, some would not, but Mike really wanted to hear the songs take shape. Out of respect to Tom, The Dirty Knobs never had any commercial aspirations. They played gigs at various clubs in the LA area when they could and built a rabid following, albeit regional. With Tom’s passing Mike has now gotten these tunes recorded and let them fly. And soar they do!
Unfortunately, the pandemic has killed any chance of them touring the material for now. Time will tell.
This debut release is comprised of thirteen cuts that showcase a real guitar band playing real guitar music. Mike wrote more of those Tom Petty hits than most people realize and it’s evident here. I’m not going to dissect each and every one but here’s some thoughts on a few.
The title cut “Wreckless Abandon” has the classic Heartbreakers feel starting with some droning sitar to open and then that Rickenbaker 12 string jangle to kick off the album with a great energy. There are several songs about the boy girl dynamic and they’re all wrapped up in Mike’s music. It is here in the lyrics where we notice Tom’s influence missing most. Given they both hailed from the same part of Florida, the southern drawl & twang is really quite alike. Yet Mike’s lyrics are all his now and not really all that dissimilar from his lost co-pilot.”Sugar” is a hit. It’s full on TPATHB sound with some Keef guitar sounds thrown in for good measure. “Southern Boy” is a reach back to earlier times. I’m personally floored by “I Still Love You” a song born out of some pain due to a rough patch Mike went through with his wife. It’s not as epic as Layla but I’m hooked. The guitar riff has just made itself at home in my head and oddly enough the chord progression gives me a Zep like vibe. While I’m not sure if “Fuck That Guy” has any hit potential, it brings a smile. “Pistol Packin’ Momma” is a lot of fun and Chris Stapelton guests here and fills out the country feel to it. Mike is not a classic shredder and his art is the nuanced way of leaving room for the others. He NEVER over plays. The guitar work is in support of the song. He has the pleasure of now having another guitar player who can share the leads and they cut from the same cloth rhythmically.
If you’re a Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers fan, you’ll want this. It may help loosen up some grief of your own and then bring a smile! If you’re a guitar fan of Mike’s it’s a must have.
Now to “The Dirty Knobs Live At The Troubadour” broadcast a few nights ago. Aside from being their official release party, the event was also a fundraiser for NIVA to support the National Independent Venue Association. Music venues are dying during this pandemic and if you want to ever see live music again, consider typing “support” to 833-660-0015. It’s for a worthy cause.
If you would like to see the stream of the Troubadour show, it will be available online until November 30th. They don’t play the entire album but they do close with a great version of “Refugee.” Not to be missed. Catch it below…