Los Angeles Times: No Better Than This Review

Los Angeles Times via Lexington Herald-Leader By Todd Martens

The John Mellencamp of "No Better Than This" is not the John Mellencamp most would expect. The artist seems to know as much: "I caught a glimpse of myself as others see me, and I wasn't the feller that I thought I'd be," he sings on "Coming Down the Road." His trademark scratched vocals are there, but the backdrop is intimate, relaxed and more than a little quaint.

The album was produced by T Bone Burnett, who consistently proves he has a knack for turning vintage blues and folk sounds into something rather raw and intricate, and recorded with archaic techniques. Add the detail that Mellencamp worked only at spots steeped in rock myth, including Sun Studios in Memphis, Tenn., and "No Better Than This" risks being written off as retro gimmick.

Instead, such tracks as "Right Behind Me" go for the throat, with each slow pluck of the guitar haunting the shadows, and Mellencamp singing his voice hoarse. For much of the record, he's eyeing death and laughing at the devil or, as in the back-porch-folk of "Easter Eve," bonding with his son by brawling with strangers. A little cranky, but far more carefree Mellencamp slips into a rocking chair groove on the lost-lover lament of "Don't Forget About Me" and concedes that he's "spotty at best." Over the course of his 30-plus-year career, sure, but not here.