Pennsylvania's Chester County Daily Local News: No Better Than This Review

By Sean Hickey

John Mellencamp went back to the basics to record his new album. Really back to the basics.

The album was produced by T-Bone Burnett, who earlier collaborated with Mellencamp on the much-lauded "Life Death Love and Freedom." Rather than shacking up in one studio to produce every song, Mellencamp found inspiration by moving to different locations and recording in quick, uncomplicated ways. He wrote the 13 songs during a 13-day span last spring.

The album was recorded in a variety of historically significant locations in the South while Mellencamp was on tour last summer. The famous Sun Studios in Memphis, the First African Baptist Church in Savannah, and Room 414 of the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio -- reportedly the site of Robert Johnson's first recordings -- were among the settings chosen. With several multi-platinum albums under his belt, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member wanted to take his fans on a journey to the music he listened to when his career was just taking off.

Equally unusual and significant, the album is in "beautiful mono," with all the songs recorded on a 55-year-old Ampex tape recorder, using only one microphone for all the vocal and acoustic instrumental parts. The record is a testimony to old-time values and craftsmanship, and good, old-fashioned talent.