REVIEW: The Dirty Knobs’ “Wreckless Abandon” is Glitzy, Glammy Gobsmack of Guitars


For a guy who suddenly, sadly lost his band of 40 years (and his close friend) back in 2017, Mike Campbell has been a busy man this fall. The erstwhile Heartbreaker spent a good chunk of time honing and promoting the release of Tom Petty’s Wildflowers & All the Rest. He co-wrote and played on two tracks from Chris Stapleton’s Starting Over, released last week. Now, the long awaited record from Campbell’s new(ish) band, The Dirty Knobs, is finally landing this week. Wreckless Abandon is glitzy, glammy gobsmack of guitars.

The Dirty Knobs have been around, at least in rough form, since 2005, following a chance studio meeting between Campbell and fellow guitar player Jason Sinay. Although the band (which also includes Lance Morrison on bass and Matt Laug on drums) couldn’t make a full go of it at the time because of existing commitments, they’d occasionally play and gig together, but wouldn’t record a proper album until last year (after Campbell spent time touring with Fleetwood Mac). Campbell and Petty, both Florida boys, had their musical voices affected by moving to California. Petty’s music took on more of an easy-going, Laurel Canyon, hippie vibe, but Campbell’s songs reflect the LA 80s glam scene. Is it Gn’R? Well, no. But the music has a harder edge than the Heartbreakers, plus much more solid musicianship than you might see in most of those Sunset Strip bands, with a lot of 70s, Stones-ish influences on display. The title track recalls “Brown Sugar,” but with a lot more jangle (Campbell is still a Southern man, after all). “Pistol Packin’ Mama” might remind you of an even more country version of “Honky Tonk Woman” (complete with an appearance from Chris Stapleton, returning the favor), and it comes with a patented Campbell guitar outro. 

The best moments on Wreckless Abandon come from Campbell and Sinay just cuttin’ loose. “I Still Love You” is a furiously churning cry out to the one who got away, with a good, long solo in the middle that’s one of the best guitar god moments of the year, at least until the solo that wraps the track. And “Don’t Knock the Boogie” derails your dad’s “nothing good happens after midnight” scold with tall tales of late night adventures featuring a suspiciously otherworldly band – “He had a wicked eye/But he could lay a lip along a lyric” and the kind of patrons you only wish you could find in your own local dive. That, and about a baker’s dozen solos.

The other notable spots on the album come from guest spots – fellow Heartbreaker Benmont Tench showing up on piano on “Aw Honey” and Stapleton’s co-write on the cheeky call-out of life’s jerks, “F*ck That Guy” – and the more Petty-ish moments found on songs like the mostly acoustic “Anna Lee.” But if you’re just here for the guitars, you’ll walk away satisfied. “Don’t Wait” is a bluesy riff-fest, and “Don’t Knock the Boogie (Coda)” is a sleazy, acoustic slide album capper that shows off Campbell’s and Sinay’s versatility. All told, it’s fun stuff. Play it loud.

Song I Can’t Wait to Hear Live: “Don’t Knock the Boogie” (both versions), hopefully with Chris Stapleton sitting in during the rescheduled All-American Road show dates.

Wreckless Abandon was produced by George Drakoulias and Mike Campbell and recorded, mixed and mastered by Martin Pradler. All songs were written by Campbell, with co-writing credits going to Drakoulias and Chris Stapleton. Additional musicians on the album include Drakoulias (percussion and background vocals), Stapleton (vocals), Benmont Tench (piano) and Augie Meyers (organ). 

You can order Wreckless Abandon here:

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