Song of the Day #1,224: ‘Down South’ – Tom Petty

By 2006, Tom Petty was in need of a comeback. It had been 12 years since his last great album, Wildflowers, with the three releases during that span all underwhelming for one reason or another.

In 2006, Petty decided to team up once again with Jeff Lynne, producer of Full Moon Fever, to record his third solo album. The record was Highway Companion and, while it never reaches the heights of previous solo efforts Full Moon Fever or Wildflowers, it did signal a return to form.

In terms of its sound and its songwriting, Highway Companion falls about in the middle of the two previous solo efforts. It has some of the pop sheen of Full Moon Fever but also a bit of the organic poignancy that made Wildflowers so special.

‘Down South’ is a great example of what Highway Companion does well. It’s an easy strummer that sweetly evokes a time, place and character. With its references to sealing documents and paying off witnesses, the song expresses a desire to leave the past behind even while indulging in it.

Headed back down south
Gonna see my daddy’s mistress
Gonna buy back her forgiveness
Pay off every witness

One more time down south
Sell the family headstones
Drag a bag of dry bones
Make good on my back loans

So if I come to your door
Let me sleep on your floor
I’ll give you all I have
And a little more

Sleep late down south
Look up my former mentors
Live off yankee winters
Be a landlord and a renter

Create myself down south
Impress all the women
Pretend I’m Samuel Clemens
Wear seersucker and white linens

So if I come to your door
Let me sleep on your floor
I’ll give you all I have
And a little more

Spanish moss down south
Find the heroes of my childhood
Who now can do me no good
Carve their names in dogwood

Chase a ghost down south
Spirits cross the dead fields
Mosquitoes hit the windshield
All documents remain sealed

So if I come to your door
Let me sleep on your floor
I’ll give you all I have
And a little more

I’ll give you all I have
And a little more

One thought on “Song of the Day #1,224: ‘Down South’ – Tom Petty

  1. Dana says:

    Wow, unless this is another present you gave me that is sitting on a shelf somewhere, I clearly need to get this album if it stands anywhere near Full Moon Fever or Wildflowers.

    I’m not sure this song hits me as being as strong as anything on those two great albums, though I do hear some of the Wildflowers sound here, and I like it.

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