WNCT Channel 9: It's About You Stands Alone Among Music Documentaries

By: Phillip Sayblack | WNCT

Good morning once again, fans. I told you that things would be busy today. I think I am finally on track...or at least close to it with the last of today's new reviews. To finish off the morning and make my way into the weekend (by the way next week's going to be real busy too. So stay tuned and spread the word), I've got a look at John Mellencamp's brand new documentary, "It's About You." The documentary was released on dvd and blu-ray last week. Director Kurt Markus and his son Ian shot the entire documentary on a Super 8 Camera and a more modern rig, too. the combination of the two, mixed with the finished product, make it quite the interesting work. So without further ado, I offer for your consideration, dear readers, John Mellencamp's new documentary, "It's About You."

John Mellencamp's voice is one of the most distinctive in the music business. And so is his sound. The Indiana born musician has been a mainstay in the business ever since the release of his debut 1976 album, "Chestnut Street Incident." He recorded that album under the moniker, Johnny Cougar. Nearly four decades since that release, John Mellencamp is still one of rock's great names. His most recent album, "No Better Than This" was released in 2010. And last week, MPI Home Video/MPI media group released a dvd and blu-ray titled, "It's About You" that follows the creation of that album and his tour with Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson.

"It's About You" is an intriguing documentary. It was shot both on Super 8 and on a more modern camera. The raw shooting style by father and son duo Kurt and Ian Markus sets the documentary apart from so many of the spit shined and streamlined documentaries that are currently on the market. Kurt even goes so far as to comment on the work by himself and his son. He notes that Mellencamp had told him at one point that regardless of what the duo did, there was other stuff that would be better. Whether or not Mellencamp was joking on this comment is anyone's guess. But Markus was right in noting how staying out of Mellencamp's way gave the documentary a much more real feeling. It helped to pull in audiences.

As an added bonus, the commentary is actually included as part of the documentary, rather than being kept aside as a bonus feature. Kurt, the elder of the Markus duo, has a tone in his commentary that is a wondeful compliment to the shooting style. He comes across almost like "This American Life" Ira Glass. The elder Markus' writing/speaking style is almost poetic in its style and delivery. It's especially hard hitting as audiences listen to him discuss the demise of small town America's "downtown" regions.Americans already know that small town America is dying. But the way in which Markus delivers his commentary reminds viewers of how devastating it is to communities. That's especially the case set against footage of empty buildings once busting ages ago. He notes how all the businesses have moved to more suburban regions, thus leading to the deaths of the once shining hubs of commerce.

Of course, the commentary and filming aren't all that make the documentary so interesting. There is one moment as Mellencamp and company are recording one of the songs for "No Better Than This" in which one of the band members discusses the instruments' "voices". He discusses the balance of each musician playing his instrument at a given level, and the impact that it has on a song. It nearly mirrors Black Label Society frontman Zakk Wylde's comment years ago regarding the ability of heavy music to be soft and vice versa.

"It's About You" runs just shy of an hour and a half. As a matter of fact, the actual run time is just under the eighty-minute run time on the case for the disc. Why does this matter, one might ask? It matters in that even in just under that eighty-minutes, viewers will feel like the documentary flies right by. When a documentarian can make a film that keeps the audience's attention for just over an hour (especially with a music documentary), that's proof of a well made documentary. And that's exactly what this work is. "It's About You" isn't for everyone. But for anyone that's into classic rock and who is simply a fan of John Mellencamp, it's an insightful look into how this music legend makes music, and his life on the road.