Orlando Sentinel - 5 out of 5 Stars

Jim Abbott | Sentinel Music Critic

John Mellencamp is a new member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but the singer-songwriter has always possessed a depth that goes beyond rock clichés.

At its core, Life Death Love and Freedom isn't a rock album, no matter how much the frisky "My Sweet Love" shimmies with Buddy Holly style. There's an understated intensity in T Bone Burnett's production that's reminiscent of Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska in the solitary "Longest Days."

At other points, Mellencamp enlists evocative percussion and an assortment of musical toys -- melodica, resonator guitars, accordion -- to add flesh to the album's acoustic structure. As a vocalist, his tenor has aged into a weathered, expressive instrument that wraps itself around plaintive ballads such as "Young Without Lovers" and "John Cockers" like a modern-day bluesman.

On the pseudo-spiritual "Don't Need This Body," Mellencamp sounds as if he's channeling Woody Guthrie, if the folk icon had been accompanied by a haunting distorted guitar. The song doesn't rock, but it's one for the ages.
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