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John Mellencamp Freedom's Road Review

by Zane Ewton

Does it really matter if John Mellencamp lent his song to a truck commercial? Twenty years ago Mellencamp and Willie Nelson turned down corporate sponsorship for Farm Aid. They also had no problems getting their songs played on the radio then.

The game has changed considerably in 20 years, and while Mellencamp's business strategy has altered his music is defiantly unaltered. For anyone who would attack "Our Country" for political undertones, they would be missing the point. At his best Mellencamp captures Middle American life like no other singer songwriter. The man perspires Indiana.

Freedom's Road is overflowing with signature Mellencamp elements. There are stories, indictments, mission statements, hopes and prayers all strung above a driving country/rock guitar. The real highlight of the album is in the guitars and drums. Both throb and propel the songs beyond that Mellencamp formula that has been overused.

A duet with Joan Baez on "Jim Crow" is an eerily dramatic highlight that is stark when followed by quintessential Mellencamp in "Our Country".

John Mellencamp has stayed successful since his mid-eighties launch to stardom. The following years offered a few hits and consistent critical support, but now he sounds reinvigorated. Maybe the success of fellow Midwestern rocker Bob Seger showed that people still care about rock and roll from between the coasts. Regardless, Americana can stand a little prouder today, someone's on its side.

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John Mellencamp Freedom's Road

Label:Hip-O Records

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