Plain Spoken

Plain Spoken

At 62 years old, John Mellencamp sounds much more comfortable in his own skin. The years he spent trying to find an audience and a voice made him understand the preciousness of his situation when he broke through in the ‘80s, and his performances have always kept his audience in mind. He recorded his 22nd album in his home state of Indiana with Americana veteran T Bone Burnett executive-producing. It's a stripped-down, lyrically rich collection of songs, ranging from the poignancy of relationship troubles of “Tears in Vain” to the dark humor guiding the political commentary of “Lawless Times.” Acoustic instrumentation throughout creates more of the naturalistic sound that Mellencamp has been seeking over the past number of years, though a tune like “Good Charlotte” benefits from a hint of organ and “Lawless Times” punctuates its grooves with a nice bluesy electric guitar. Mellencamp's voice is clearly roughed up; at times it sounds like the heir to Bob Dylan’s weathered croak, just 10 years behind.

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