Review: “Life, Death, Love and Freedom,” John Mellencamp

John Mellencamp comes around every couple of years with a batch of new material, whether you like it or not. The Indiana native has never been afraid to write and sing about what exactly is on his mind. In his three decades of hitmaking he has addressed the plight of the American farmer, the Iraq War, racial injustice and many other controversial subjects. On his latest, Life, Death, Love and Freedom, he ponders all of these subjects with the same vigor, albeit with lackluster results.

Mellencamp calls this collection of songs, produced by T Bone Burnett, “modern electric folk songs.”  Like most Mellencamp records since The Lonesome Jubilee , the disc starts out promising and then tends to fade into a world of bland.

The first and best track, “Longest Days” is a reflective, somber tale of living life to the fullest because time is short. He channels the Everly Brothers with a Buddy Holly beat on the second track, the catchy first single, “My Sweet Love.” He gets bluesy on the dirty “If I Die Sudden.” then we start the downward spiral.

“Troubled Land,” a tune about the search for peace, sounds like an bad outtake from 1993’s Human Wheels.  “Young Without Lovers,” the predictable “Jena,” about the Jena 6 case in Louisiana, and “John Cockers” all deal with racism and the downtrodden, but it’s nothing we haven’t heard before, both melodically and lyrically. He does redeem himself a bit on the last two tracks “For Our Children” and “A Brand New Song.”

Since hearing Mellencamp’s 1985 masterpiece, Scarecrow, I have been a loyal fan that has always gone out on the first day and picked up his latest release. This time I think I’m going to save the gas.

MP3: “Longest Days”

YouTube: “My Sweet Love

John Mellencamp Official Website

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