Review : John Mellencamp - On the Rural Route 7609
PastemagazineOn the Rural Route 7609, John Mellencamp’s new four-disc retrospective, is no greatest-hits collection; only a few of his many Top 40 songs are featured, and it is instead intended to show his evolution as a songwriter—not a pop star—with alternate takes of popular vintage tracks blending naturally with (and providing context for) lesser-known, more recent material. The songs are arranged thematically rather than chronologically (much like recent Johnny Cash compilations), an approach that showcases Mellencamp’s strengths—his knack for lyrical detail and an empathy for the working class. Those talents shine through whether he’s wielding a roadhouse guitar and satirist’s pen in the attack on George W. Bush (“Rodeo Clown”) or painting the bittersweet character portraits of “Pink Houses.” His big hits may be missing, but they’re not missed....full text
Nodepression.This title will be released on June 15.
"If they wanted to call me Rumpelstilskin, I would have done it to have the opportunity to make records. Johnny Cougar indeed.- John Mellencamp
I have previously written on this site about John Mellencamp and his place in the Americana community and with On the Rural Route 7609, a box set which will be released on June 15, the music speaks for itself. Over the course of the set's four discs, many different sides of Mellencamp and his music are revealed and since the box focuses on album tracks and outtakes as opposed to hits, there are many songs here that will be new to even die-hard fans. Those who want to hear "Small Town" and "Hurts So Good" can look elsewhere. In fact, I'll be more than happy to direct you to the right place in the comments section. But those who want a career-spanning portrait of a modern American folk singer and roots rocker need to look no further.
The set begins with 2008's stark, acoustic ballad "Longest Days," inspired by the illness and subsequent death of Mellencamp's grandmother. The song addresses Mellencamp's career in an honest and revealing way with lines such as "So you tell yourself, you'll be back on top someday/But you know there's nothing waiting up there for you anyway." The song makes as compelling an opening to this set as it did on the album Life, Death, Love and Freedom.
The next track, "Grandma's Theme" from the 1985 album Scarecrow features Mellencamp's grandmother performing the traditional American folk song "The Baggage Coach Ahead". This is followed by 2007's "Rural Route," which is the absolute antithesis of "Small Town" or "Jack and Diane". Instead of describing "Two American kids growin' up in the heartland" or people who were "Taught to fear Jesus in a small town", this track examines the rural underbelly with lines about how the "air stinks of crystal meth" and its real-life tale of a rape and murder of a 5th grader near Mellencamp's parents home. It is perhaps the bleakest track of Mellencamp's career and will serve as a wake-up call to those who thought he only wrote anthems meant to be sung along to in arenas.
Things do not brighten up any on the next track, "Jackie Browne". The song, an acoustic folk ballad from 1989's Big Daddy, is a heartbreaking tale of poverty and how it affects one family. This is followed by "Rain on the Scarecrow," probably the best known track thus far, but this is not the version are most familiar with. This is the acoustic version of the song from 1999's Rough Harvest and the acoustic setting really helps to underline the serious nature of the song which deals with a family losing their farm and contains some of Mellencamp's most cutting lines: "Called my old friend Schepman up to auction off the land/He said John it's just my job and I hope you understand/Hey callin' it your job, ol' hoss, sure don't make it right/But if you want me to I'll say a prayer for your soul tonight"....full text
RollingstoneJohn Mellencamp's four-disc box set On the Rural Route 7609 hits stores today, but in the new issue of Rolling Stone he admits he wasn't always sold on the idea of a retrospective. "I didn't have any interest in doing a box set — I know what happens with them," he says. "You go to the hits and you skip the rest." So to better acquaint casual listeners, Mellencamp mixed his hits with lesser-known album tracks. Check out his take on "Pink Houses," a demo of "Authority Song" and more of the key tunes included on this best-of right now in All Access — and enter for a chance to win On the Rural Route 7609 by e-mailing your name, address, telephone number, age and e-mail address to contests [at] rollingstone [dot] com with the subject line "John Mellencamp Sweeps."
No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. Open to residents of the 50 United States and Washington, DC who are 18 years of age or older as of June 15, 2010. Sweepstakes begins at 5:00 p.m. EST on June 15, 2010 and ends at 11:59 p.m. EST on June 30, 2010. Number of winners: 5. ARV: $100.00. Certain restrictions may apply. Complete Official Rules are available on the next page....full text
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