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06/19/2010 - St. Louis rock station KSHE95 has run a pair of stories featuring quotes from John about what he learned on the 2009 Bob Dylan tour and about the experience of recording his new album No Better Than This.

John Mellencamp says that he learned invaluable lessons on the road last summer while performing at a slew of the nation's minor league ballparks. Mellencamp, who just released his career-spanning four-CD box set On The Rural Route 7609, explained that the Dylan tour left an indelible mark on him: "Y'know, it's pretty loose. It's not really a 'rock show' -- y'know what I'm saying? It's about songwriting and it's a lot looser than shows I had done in the past when it was me in an arena, or me in a shed where it's, like, people expect a performance. I've learned a lot by doing so many shows with Dylan, because Bob is pretty much. . . he's really in the moment."

On August 17th John will release his Read More
06/18/2010 - By David Fricke - On The Rural Route 7609 Review - Handsome four-CD box set spans the Indiana rocker's career, from "Jack and Diane" to Woody Guthrie.

These four CDs come in a hardcover book with the heft and texture of a Dust Bowl-family photo album. The setting suits the purpose. This is a study in storytelling - Mellencamp's drive to probe and capture, with folk grit and a great rock band, the gross injustices and precious victories of American life. The hits come with context: "Jack and Diane" appears with two formative demos. But there is more emphasis on honoring, in songs like "Rural Route" and "Ghost Towns Along the Highway," " the Woody Guthrie ideal": a melody and truth to move the world. Read More
06/15/2010 - By Jim Beal Jr.

It's been a long time since John Mellencamp hasn't done things his way. When it came time to compile a career retrospective, the singer, songwriter, heartland rocker, painter, advocate for the family farmer and Americana godfather from Indiana could have hired someone to do the job. That's not the Mellencamp way.

For this four CD/fancy book package, with excellent liner notes penned by Anthony DeCurtis, Mellencamp jumped headfirst into the archives. He selected hits, demos, rarities, songs from a bunch of albums and a few spoken-word pieces, including one featuring his grandmother, Laura Mellencamp. Mellencamp then put them all together, not in chronological order, but in an order that flows something like a live show.

With 54 tracks, lyrics and essays about each entry, On the Rural Route 7609 is a heavy-duty, but nowhere near ponderous, look at Mellencamp as a songwriter. If you hit the rural route with John Mellencamp, it's not a shor Read More
06/10/2010 - By David Browne - Article photo by Kurt Markus

John Mellencamp admits he wasn't stoked about compiling On the Rural Route 7609, his new four-disc retrospective. "I didn't have any interest in doing a box set - I know what happens with them," he says, "You go to the hits and you skip the rest." But the rocker saw an opportunity to turn casual fans on to his deep cuts - so each disc intersperses hits with lesser-known album tracks in non-chronological order. "People will discover that I have songs besides 'Pink Houses,'" he says. But it's not like Mellencamp, 58, is living in the past: In August, he'll release a new album, the T Bone Burnett - produced No Better Than This. And in 2012, he'll premiere Ghost Brothers of Darkland County, the musical he co-wrote with Stephen King. An LP of music from the show - featuring Elvis Costello and Rosanne Cash - is also in the can. In the meantime, Mellencamp reflects on some key tracks from Read More
05/24/2010 - A 55-year-old reel-to-reel Ampex tape recorder, a single microphone and three historic recording sites were John Mellencamp's tools for making his new album, "No Better Than This," which is due out Aug. 17 -- seven weeks after he releases a retrospective box set, "On the Rural Route 7609."

Mellencamp and producer T-Bone Burnett recorded the 13 mono, unoverdubbed tracks for "No Better Than This" during the summer of 2009, while the Indiana Rock and Roll Hall of Famer was on the road with Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson. Using members of Mellencamp's band and guests like guitarist Marc Ribot and former Johnny Cash upright bassist Dave Roe, they set up shop at Sun Studios in Memphis, Room 414 of the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio -- where Robert Johnson made his first recordings in November of 1936 -- and in the First African Baptist Church in Savannah, Ga., the inaugural black church in America and a stop on the underground railroad during the Civil War. Read More
05/20/2010 -

His holiness the Dalai Lama embraces John after his performance of "Save Some Time To Dream" in Bloomington on May 13th, 2010. Photo by Kessara Dhana

John's solo acoustic performance of "Save Some Time To Dream" last Thursday at a small luncheon gathering at the Tibetan Cultural Center in Bloomington prompted the Dalai Lama to reference the song's lyrics in his informal remarks prior to taking questions from the invited attendees.

First Elaine, who accompanied the spiritual leader from the airport and is a staunch supporter of the center, thanked him for his visit to Indiana and "all his words of inspiration." She then introduced her husband simply as "a recording artist" who would sing a song in his honor.

"Save Some Time To Dream," of course, is a key cut on John's forthco Read More
05/20/2010 - The first review of On the Rural Route 7609 is out and it's a doozy. No Depression blogger Adam Sheets, an admitted "Mellen-maniac," takes the comprehensive cut-by-cut approach in relating the four-disc box set's entire contents.

"I have previously written on this site about John Mellencamp and his place in the Americana community and with On the Rural Route 7609, a box set which will be released on June 15, the music speaks for itself," writes Sheets. "Over the course of the set's four discs, many different sides of Mellencamp and his music are revealed and since the box focuses on album tracks and outtakes as opposed to hits, there are many songs here that will be new to even die-hard fans."

Noting that those desiring pop hits like "Small Town" and "Hurts So Good" "can look elsewhere," the accommodating Read More
02/26/2010 - By Adam Sheets - Sometime in the next week as part of my job, I will be writing a newspaper review of the new Johnny Cash album. However, I will probably not post it here because it will probably not live up to the high standards of this site. To be honest, I'm not really looking forward to it.

"What?," you ask, "You're not looking forward to new Johnny Cash?!" Of course I am looking forward to the music itself; in fact, I can hardly wait until tomorrow for the release, but what I am not looking forward to is writing a review whose intended audience is people who did not know Johnny Cash ever existed until after he was dead.

That is why I am thankful for No Depression and the great work done by all of you here. You guys actually care about quality music and a good blog post or video on this site can brighten up a bad day. I'm hoping the following can maybe do the same for one of you.

Prior to my discovery of more “underground” America Read More
02/15/2010 - By Mike Leonard - Commentary - There was a point before the musical program at the White House last week when John Mellencamp looked around the room and wondered, “What am I doing here?”

The singers and performers assembled were mostly African-American and rightly so. The program was put together in recognition of Black History Month and titled, “In Performance at the White House: A Celebration of Music from the Civil Rights Movement.”

Morgan Freeman, Smokey Robinson, Natalie Cole, Yolanda Adams, the Five Blind Boys from Alabama. That all made sense. All had either lived through the civil rights era of the late 1950s and ‘60s or lived it vicariously through family members and mentors.

Of the three white entertainers there, Bob Dylan clearly belonged. When he wrote “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” the civil rights movement was very much on his mind.

Joan Baez helped galvanize the aspirations of blacks and whites with her ethereal version of the spir Read More
02/12/2010 - A complete, unedited version of John's performance of "Born in the U.S.A." from December's Kennedy Center Honors segment celebrating the music of honoree Bruce Springsteen has surfaced.

The four-minute clip really stretches out the song, which opens slowly with John on acoustic guitar, Kenny Aronoff clapping tambourines, and Andy York inserting electric guitar licks before the houseband gradually joins in, maintaining a mostly acoustic simmer for the first two before John cuts it off for at the two-minute mark for 30 seconds of a cappella Vietnam reminiscence. He then kicks it off into the full-fledged rock anthem made famous in Springsteen's hit version.

“I was very proud and humbled to have been able to play ‘Born In The U.S.A.’ in a different fashion--that I think was true to the feelings that Bruce had when he wrote it,” Mellencamp told us shortly after the program was taped on Dec. 6. “As just some kid in New Jersey making records, I bet he never imagined in his wilde Read More
02/04/2010 - Last week’s MusiCares Person of the Year gala honoring Neil Young in Los Angeles was a joyous occasion, says Andy York, who played guitar on John’s tribute performance of his Farm Aid co-founding partner’s classic “Down By the River.”

“Kenny Aronoff played a cocktail drumkit we brought in from Indianapolis, and Don Was played upright bass and T Bone Burnett played this beautiful electric vibe guitar,” says York. “We rehearsed the song a couple times during soundcheck and it really felt like a band from the first note. It was a blast playing together.”

John, he notes, “sang with the conviction that he’s famous for.”

He adds: “We tried to make the song more spooky even than Neil’s original—with tremelo guitars and the cocktail drums and the upright bass all supporting John’s vocal delivery.”

John was the first performer in an all-star lineup that also included Ozomatli, Jackson Browne, David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash, Sheryl Crow, Elton J Read More
01/08/2010 - Number 18. 'Life, Death, Love & Freedom' (2008)

'Life, Love, Death and Freedom' is one of John Mellencamp's best albums…period. Its themes, lyrics and arrangements cut right through your soul. Even at fourteen-songs, Mellencamp has crafted a lean and reflective album with some of his most ingenuous and illuminating lyrics ever committed to tape. More importantly, he's found a way to properly present them thanks to the guided hand of producer T-Bone Burnett. The poignancy of his lyrics hasn't been this compelling in eons. One listen to "Longest Days" will leave you emotionally drained as his reedy voice reveals layers and elevates what is already magnificent poetry to art that is relevant to the here and now. These songs ring true to Mellencamp's ideologies and the themes in his larger body of work. T Bone Burnett's subtle production pulls you in and doesn't let go. The entire album is bursting with divine lyrics which find a common ground of redemption. There's a lot of life in these Read More
12/15/2009 - It’s been a busy year for John, what with touring and numerous album projects in various stages of completion. But he did take some time out last week to give Mellencamp.com a few updates on current projects along with comments on recent news making activities:

The Kennedy Center Honors - “I was very proud and humbled to have been able to play ‘Born in the U.S.A.’ in a different fashion--that I think was true to the feelings that Bruce had when he wrote it,” John said, regarding his slowed-down version of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” that was part of the musical tribute to Springsteen at the recent Kennedy Center Honors in Washington, D.C.

As Andy York related last week, John’s version did in fact offer more of a folk-blues take on the essential protest song nature of Springsteen’s lyric—which has been almost totally overlooked if not misunderstood due to the nature of the anthemic chorus. Stripping it down to its roots, John was thereby Read More
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