Boston Globe - In A Serious State Of Mind
07.15.2008 - ESSENTIAL "A Ride Back Home"
Fresh from induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the plainspoken poet
of the heartland continues to prove why he deserves that honor. Whether it's an
impeccable turn of phrase or mesmerizing melody, Mellencamp finds plenty of
inspiration on this glorious and haunting effort, produced with typically
idiosyncratic skill by T Bone Burnett.
Eschewing any concept of "radio ready" and singing with a gruff immediacy,
Mellencamp tackles all of the titular concepts on this folk- and blues-based
material with a sense of liberation that is keenly palpable. Death, especially,
is a popular topic. Mellencamp, 56, approaches it with calm contemplation on the
meditative "Longest Days." He prepares for it with curmudgeonly attitude and
gratitude on the dark, rumbling "If I Die Sudden" and even longs for it on "A
Ride Back Home," in which Jesus serves as kind of a bouncer and celestial taxi
service to the pearly gates.
Mostly written in two weeks and recorded in about the same amount of time, these
vivid stories tell of people in various stages of living and dying who have
learned a thing or two worth passing on. The album also comes with a DVD
version, the first release in a new high-quality audio format called CODE,
created by Burnett and a team of engineers. It indeed sounds warmer and more
present than its CD counterpart. [Sarah Rodman]
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