Mike Campbell & The Dirty Knobs

External Combustion

Former Tom Petty guitarist Mike Campbell’s second release displays his group in tip-top shape as they push the boundaries of swampy L.A. rock and roll.

Co-produced by Campbell and George Drakoulias (Black Crowes), External Combustion is a backbeat musical journey with finely dimed guitar textures. Campbell’s artistry should come as no surprise as he concocts tasty, fat-free licks, and his expanding songwriting chops are fully displayed on the melancholy “State Of Mind,” featuring Margo Price sharing lead vocals. Rich harmonies, a well-orchestrated horn section, and tasteful slide make the song a highlight.

External Combustion also features Mott the Hoople legend Ian Hunter displaying tough-edged vocals amidst jubilant chord work on the powerhouse ditty “Dirty Job.” The album also features Heartbreakers’ keyboardist Benmont Tench for the Texas-tinged “Lightning Boogie.”

Campbell stays within his wheelhouse, but demonstrates colorful range as his guitar morphs from the psychedelic California country of “Electric Gypsy,” the rockabilly appropriations of “Brigitte Bardot” (with awesome slide), and driving Tom Petty stylings of “Wicked Mind.” Dig the Lenny Breau-style harmonics on the ethereal “In This Lifetime.” It’s a fun listen.

This article originally appeared in VG’s July 2022 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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