Mellencamp - Rural Electrification 1999
by Debbie Seagle
5th in Houston, Texas, John Mellencamp and his seven piece band launched
his "Rural Electrification Tour,"
in support of his self titled first release for Columbia Records.
Explains Mellencamp, "In the Thirties, Rural Electrification brought electricity
to farmers and other rural dwellers for the first time in their lives,
and along with that electricity came radios and record players - Music!
We're lucky enough that for the last 20 years, we've had the opportunity
to play our own small part in bringing music to people; to entertain them
and have a lot of fun in the process."
years the former "Johnny Cougar" has been bringing his brand of rock Americana
to the masses with a no-nonsense approach of solid rhythms, heartfelt lyrics
and a dynamic and energetic stage presence. Throwing off the "Cougar"
stage name that was given to him by his record label at the beginning of
his musical career, he has thumbed his nose at the conventional wisdom
of the music industry by sticking to his roots and remaining true to himself
and his Midwestern upbringing. In the fickle and fad crazy world
of music, it is an accomplishment
to still be hitting the charts and rolling with the headliners after some
20 years, and he has done this while refusing to uproot and record or live
in New York or Los Angeles, where the majority of today's artists and record
labels congregate. Says Mellencamp, "New York is a drag, because
if you go into one of those tunnels at the wrong time, your whole day is
shot. And in L.A., there's too much sunshine and too many pretty
girls. You can't work there."
you are planning to catch a show in your town this summer, there is one
thing you will not see. You will not see pyrotechnics or special
effects of any kind. You will see (and hear) pure, honest rock and
roll. The kind of music with a beat that makes your feet want to
move and your fingers snap. Just four years after suffering a heart
attack, Mellencamp is looking good, feeling confident and exuding a satisfaction
in his music. He and his band feed off the good vibe they are getting
from the concert audiences and give it right back, with some to spare.
Songs from the earlier days of his long career drew the most reaction from
a crowd that ranged in age from adolescent up. Rock anthems such
as "Jack & Diane," "Hurts So Good,"
"Little Pink Houses," and the "Authority
Song" are performed with touches of new
paint, via fiddle riffs and innovative percussion, without losing the original
passion with which they were created.
they are only two weeks into their tour schedule, Mellencamp's rapport
with his band was evident and added to the enjoyment of the performance.
His fiddle player Miriam Sturm and
his percussionist / back up singer Patricia Peterson alternately danced
and vamped with him and teased the audience with sing-backs and na, na,
nas during the "Authority Song," "R-O-C-K
in the USA," and "Small
Town." And most people in the audience
danced, clapped and sang along. It appeared that for many people,
John Mellencamp's music has been the backdrop for their generation, but
it spilled over that evening and progressed to the next . . .
current tour set list includes the single from the new CD, "I'm
Not Running Anymore," and a touching acoustic
performance of "Your Life Is Now."
This latest effort experiments with sample
loops, hip-hop, blues and rock tempos that create a quilted mixture of
musical situations. Tracks such as "Where
The World Began" sport an appetizing rock
rhythm and "Miss Missy"
goes in a country-rock direction. Although some tracks are not necessarily
the style he is best suited to, he shows his love of the "art" of music
by stepping out and daring to paint with different colors. This is
not a concept album, it is a musical water color of varied textures and
intensity. The project offers a glimpse into the variety of John
Mellencamp's talents and showcases the progression of a much richer, conditioned
To order or hear samples from the Columbia Records release "John Mellencamp,"
visit the The Rock n World John
Mellencamp CD Store.
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