Graham Reid | | <1 min read
John Mellencamp's last album Freedom's Road was so good -- a grounded, raw and uncompromising look at America in the hinterland and heartland -- that this similarly conceived new one should attract immediate attention.
Mellencamp -- who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame earlier this year -- somehow falls below the sight lines in New Zealand, despite a long and creditable body of folk-rock and country-blues songs which challenges, and often surpass, Springsteen for their blue-collar perspectives and literate lyrics.
Disaffected or celebratory about the America and the lives he sees around him, Mellencamp has been called "the poet laureate of the Interstate", a description which adequately encapsulates his impressive songwriting.
Typically this one deals some dark cards (naked racism in Jena) and titles like Troubled Land, Don't Need This Body and Country Fair tell their own stories. There are certainly upbeat songs -- notably with Karen Fairchild of Little Big Town on the rollicking Sweet Love -- and with T Bone Burnett's exceptional production this has an emotional and sonic immediacy.
Mellencamp's songs can sear with passion, pain, resentment, melancholy and reflectiveness -- all coming at you in a voice that has been smoke-cured by at least a pack a day for the past few decades..