Full disclosure: John Mellencamp’s grandmother and my paternal grandmother were cousins, so I guess that makes us – what? – second cousins twice removed, or something? Don’t ask him, I’m sure he’s never heard of me.

In any case, the fact that we’re loosely related may have colored my opinion, but, over the years, I’ve grown to love his work – at least in concept – and was fascinated by this story on NPR’s Morning Edition, earlier this week: http://www.elabs7.com/ct.html?rtr=on&s=fj6,mqgz,dv,f2fy,cnwq,g1zw,l3bv

Born with spina bifida, Mellencamp got off to a rough start in life, but has managed to become something of an inspiration to many people, from towns large and small. At the same time, he’s developed as a musician in spite of in his phenomenal success.   

As a fan and someone who shares a very little bit of his DNA, I can appreciate Mellencamp's eclectic musical taste and demand for authenticity.  Lord knows he's paid is dues in a very tough business, and he certainly has a right to look back on his roots, musical and familial. After all, in the 1840s,  his ancestors waded for miles up the White River to the White Creek (in what is now called Indiana), where they cleared the land to build a community. A century and a quarter later, Mellencamp ran away from that same spot, only to return home rich enough to buy up much of the town. What a story!  Go John!

Here’s a review of his latest album, from Rolling Stone:

No Better Than This
By John Mellencamp
 
No Better Than This is John Mellencamp's debut on Rounder Records, the legendary indie label specializing in roots and Americana music. The entire album was recorded with Mellencamp and his band all playing live in one room using a 55-year-old Ampex tape recorder and just one vintage microphone. Legendary producer T Bone Burnett captured the 13 new tracks at three historic locations: Sun Studio in Memphis, Tenn., (where Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis first recorded); the First African Baptist Church in Savannah, Ga., (the oldest Black church in North America, dating to 1775); and in Room 414 of the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio, Texas (where Robert Johnson made his first recordings in 1936). Mellencamp's songs on No Better Than This reflect classic American musical traditions including blues, folk, gospel, rockabilly and country, while addressing such themes as the need for hope, the nature of relationships and narratives that recount extraordinary occurrences in everyday life.
 
"No Better Than This shows Mellencamp channeling spirits and stepping into period styles. They fit him perfectly." ~Will Hermes, Rolling Stone


 


Comments

09/01/2010 16:03

I'm hoping that this Morning Edition piece is available in podcast, my favorite way to listen to NPR. I've always loved Mellencamp and I look forward to listening.

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