Boston Globe: For Mellencamp, The Title Says It All - No Better Than This Review

The Boston Globe By Sarah Rodman

The tale of John Mellencamp’s new album, “No Better Than This,’’ is a tantalizing one for both the Indiana rocker’s fans specifically and roots music enthusiasts in general. The 13 tracks, produced by spare music maestro T Bone Burnett with one microphone and vintage equipment, were recorded over 13 days in “historically significant’’ locations during Mellencamp’s tour with Bob Dylan. Those places included Sun Studios in Memphis and the San Antonio hotel room where Robert Johnson bared his soul. But backstory is meaningless unless there are songs to back it up, and, like Mellencamp’s other recent releases, “Better’’ more than walks the walk. From the grimy, soot-stained tale of the price of progress in “The West End’’ to the reflective and emotionally expansive message to an old flame in “Thinking About You,’’ Mellencamp’s voice is as remarkably gritty as his observations are crystal clear. The funny and imaginative “Love at First Sight’’ envisions an entire relationship — from giddy new love to recrimination and betrayal — in the space of a first meeting. And the incongruously jaunty “No One Cares About Me’’ paints a vivid tale of a lost man (wife gone, job lost, child dead) who still hopes angels are around the corner. Country, folk, rock, and blues commingle like old friends enjoying a living-room song pull. The album concludes with “Clumsy Ol’ World,’’ one of the finest love songs Mellencamp has written, capped with a wry little laugh that lets you know he knows it. He earns it. (Out tomorrow)