Philadelphia Inquirer: No Better Than This Review

The Philadelphia Inquirer By Nick Cristiano

Since the end of his John Cougar days, John Mellencamp has gradually been moving away from the big, anthemic sound that pretty much defined heartland rock. No Better Than This follows the release of a four-CD boxed- set retrospective, On the Rural Route 7069, and marks the Indianan's rootsiest turn yet. With T Bone Burnett as producer, the album was cut, in mono, at Sun Studios in Memphis, the San Antonio hotel room where Robert Johnson recorded, and a historic Savannah, Ga., church.

If the whole approach is a little too self-consciously rawboned and retro, there is nothing affected about Mellencamp's performance, or his songs. (Nothing, for example, like that drawl Springsteen puts on for his folkier numbers.) He leads a stripped-down band through a strong set of originals ranging from country laments ("Nobody Cares About Me") to folk narratives ("Easter Eve") and rockabilly raveups (the title track), earning his own place in the traditions he so obviously wants to be a part of.