The Alternate Root: Plain Spoken Review

John Mellencamp releases Plain Spoken, his twenty-second album. While John’s rock resume spans decades, in the past few years other areas of his art have emerged. He wrapped a ten-year-in-the-making project with Stephen King, launching the stage production Ghost Brothers of Darkland County and on canvas, The Paintings of John Mellencamp is touring galleries. Plain Spoken keeps John in his day gig as a musician and songwriter. If there are changes in the way the album sounds, it can be traced to the more literary touch to the stories on Plain Spoken. Dusty Americana sweeps across thunder clouds of rhythm set against the dark background of electric guitar snake lightning (“Tears in Vain”), piano and guitar notes ride a carousel circling “The Brass Ring” and heartbeat drum pounds follow a fiddle to an inevitable end (“Blue Charlotte”).

John Mellencamp sings as the lead character in his songs and that potential for personal has the songs as stories told by a friend. He has spent years in our lives, so in many ways John Mellencamp is audio family, and the songs on Plain Spoken cement his ties to the lives he passes. Religion has given various higher powers a bad name, and “Sometimes There's God” looks for the spirit out the window or in the eyes of a friend, pointing out sometimes there is an invisible hand touching what we see while sometimes there is not. John Mellencamp borders Plain Spoken with observations. In album opener, “Troubled Man” he walks in with past mistakes on display, not as a request for forgiveness, just facts. The album exits on dirty guitar chords talking about an even dirtier world on “Lawless Times”.