John Mellencamp | Plain Spoken (MCA)

cd John-MellencampThese songs bear a sound that lacks the harder, pop-oriented edge of past releases.



Plain Spoken marks a milestone for John Mellencamp. With this album, he has officially released 20 studio albums, and 22 albums overall, with sales of over 40 million worldwide. Not bad for a boy from rural Indiana.

This is a very raw and personal album, a little darker than we are used to from the often out-spoken singer/songwriter. Mellencamp is the undisputed reigning king of modern honkytonk, and his ability to make a hit is definitely not lost here. Armed with 85 songs when entering the studio, he obviously took song-stock when making the choices for the tracks that would make the cut. However, one is hard-pressed to identify a good first single.

Having worked with such artists as Sheryl Crow and Meshell Ndegocello, and being a founder of Farm Aid, he now sports tunes he worked on with blues legend T. Bone Burnett. While Burnett was supposed to produce the record, Mellencamp ended up producing it himself, the result being a disc that is well-produced without being too slick. Spotlight tracks here start with the album opener, “Troubled Man,” a song about confronting one’s demons, and “Sometimes, There’s God,” which features some killer honkytonk piano

Mellencamp is more somber and blues-inspired this time around, a sound that lacks the harder, pop-oriented edge of past releases. This may create distance between him and heavy radio rotation. Vocally, Mellencamp is very raw and almost in a bluesy rut. While melodic and still singable, this is a different style for the singer, and it grows monotonous after a time.

Overall, I expected more from this release.. The album is semi-stale , and lacks his patented brand of rural rock. C- | Marc Farr

About Marc Farr 244 Articles
Marc Farr is the Live Music & Assignments Editor of PLAYBACK:stl. He's so invaluable to us, we've nicknamed him Mr. Music. Reach out if you have coverage ideas! "I know it's only rock and roll...but I like it!"
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