Scranton PA Electric City Album Review

Sights & Sounds
By Mike Evans
THE GOOD: Recent Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame inductee John Mellencamp isn't growing older "quietly" on his latest effort.

THE BAD: Those looking for radio-friendly, life-affirming ditties and fist-pumping patriotism aren't going to find any of that here.

THE NITTY GRITTY: Life Death Love and Freedom is easily the heaviest record of the singer/songwriter's career. Heavy in that various tracks deal with growing older, becoming lonely and bitter, racial tensions, senseless crimes, and (as a piece of the title suggests) dying. Musically, it's not heavy in the least bit. Produced by T-Bone Burnett, the disc is actually a pretty authentic study in modern folk and alt-country. Drums are sparse. Acoustic instruments are plentiful. And Burnett coats the tunes in echo and analog recording techniques, creating a vibe that's straight out of Memphis circa 1954. Mellencamp's voice is raw and unyielding. Karen Fairchild joins the guy on a handful of cuts, smoothing out the rougher edges and bringing a gentler vibe to some of these proceedings. In the end though, the album is covered in a glorious grit.

BUY IT?: Yes. Mellencamp continues to progress as his 30-plus-years career moves forward. And he's only getting better.

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