John Mellencamp has been telling us for years that he doesn’t want to be a rock star anymore.
Just in case you didn’t get the message with his raw 2008 release Life, Death, Love and Freedom, he’s now served up No Better Than This — an album that proudly proclaims “recorded in mono” on its jacket.
It sounds like it fell off the back of a chuck wagon steered by geezer twins Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan — which in many ways it was.
Mellencamp recorded it off a single microphone while touring minor league baseball parks with the two legendary songwriters. He even taped one track — Right Behind Me — in the same San Antonio hotel room that Robert Johnson recorded Cross Road Blues.
The end result, pieced together by producer T-Bone Burnett, is a lo-fi
triumph of Americana folk rock a la Johnny Cash, John Prine or Steve Earle. The
voice is ragged but the title track’s message is starkly clear — eat up life now
cuz there ain’t no seconds.
It may be a bit jaded, even a tad cynical, but, at 59, Mellencamp can do as
he pleases. Rock stars come and go. Great songs never die.
Outstanding track: Save Some Time to Dream