Freedom's Road

Freedom's Road

John Mellencamp has always been a mess of contradictions: A populist singer who claimed he never wanted to be a pop singer, a successful heartland rocker who received mixed reviews from his critics and who spent as much time painting on his Indiana farm as he did working crowds the world over. Recluse or rock star? Mellencamp’s a product of the working class Midwest who never lost his stubborn streak or his generous spirit. Freedom’s Road is his heartfelt reaction to the post 9-11 world and while it contains its share of awkward moments — “The Americans” scans more like a jingle for a youth organization than a song — it also has a warm, empathetic vibe (try “Forgiveness,” for starters) that makes rooting for the self-confessed “Little Bastard” an easy task. There’s a spooky Counting Crows-meets-Robbie Robertson vibe to “Ghost Towns Along the Highway” and the title track, and an econoline country-rock groove dominates “Someday” and “Our Country “ (as heard in a car commercial). Joan Baez joins in for the eerie “Jim Crow.” Essentially, Mellencamp’s our country’s best paid social worker, bringing attention to those who have slipped through the cracks and giving a human face to a myriad of societal ills.

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