It had been many years since I’d bought a John Mellencamp album. I read about this one in an interview with Bruce Springsteen who had contributed guitar and vocals to 3 of its tracks for his long time friend (who knew ?). So I thought I’d take a chance on it.
It’s a quite different John Mellencamp from the one on “Scarecrow”. His voice has deepened and roughed up, he now sounds not unlike Tom Waits. It took me a while to get into this album but the wait was worth it. It’s very, very good.
I like first song “I Always Lie To Strangers”…a lot. It’s taken at a beautifully world weary, sedate pace. You’re introduced to that gritty new voice (he may have been singing like this for years, I don’t know, I haven’t been listening for a long time). There’s a sense of “don’t blame me, you (the world around us) made me this cynical”
“I always lie to strangers, I am a man of low degree
This world is run by men, Much more crooked than me”
Once he started writing Mellencamp said he realised the songs were all coming from one character, one voice, so he continued with that in mind which gives the album a real consistency. The sedate pace continues through the whole album, we’re not rockin’ in the USA this time, it’s music made by an older man for an older audience that has grown with him.
The music itself is American roots, Americana whatever you want to call it. Miriam Sturm’s fiddle is prominent throughout. “I Am A Man That Worries” has a great Dobro/slide/barroom feel to it, “Sweet Honey Brown” is a life lost to Heroin, “Wasted Days” with Bruce Springsteen is very much in the vein of the Boss’s previous album looking back on life and willing yourself to make the most of what’s left of it. Springsteen also adds guitar and backing vocals to “Did You Say Such A Thing”.
This one may not be for all of you but it’s an album I’ve played a lot over the past year or so. I think it's the grumpy old man-ness of it that appeals, I wonder why that could be...
I Always Lie To Strangers - https://youtu.be/_1CtmRdvxXY?si=uB4-_GYJpazsX_D8