Feature

John Mellencamp: No Better Than This

On his 21st studio album, Mellencamp reaches back to play around with sounds from the dawn of rock ’n’ roll, blues, and folk.

(Rounder)

***

No Better Than This “risks being written off as a retro gimmick,” said Todd Martens in the Los Angeles Times. On his 21st studio album, the artist formerly known as “Cougar” reaches way back, past his own 1980s glory days, to play around with sounds from the dawn of rock ’n’ roll as well as “vintage blues and folk.” Recording mono on single-track reel-to-reel at Memphis’ legendary Sun Studios and the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio, where blues legend Robert Johnson once cut recordings, Mellencamp and producer T-Bone Burnett have created a warm-sounding, “raw and intricate” record. All 13 songs are infused with “modesty, shagginess, and humor—qualities not normally associated with the singer in the past,” said Greg Kot in the Chicago Tribune. On “Easter Eve,” Mellencamp finds a way “to sound both rambunctious and easygoing,” while the title track sounds like vintage Johnny Cash. No Better Than This turns out to be aptly titled—Mellencamp’s rarely been better.

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