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16  MELLENCAMP DISCUSSION / Articles / John Mellencamp Puts His Masterstrokes On Display in Nashville on: March 27, 2019, 01:27:32 pm

John Mellencamp Puts His Masterstrokes On Display in Nashville

by Rich and Laura Lynch
It really wasn't supposed to work out this way. John Mellencamp was hoping to become a painter. To help pay for art school he would sing in bands and ultimately he was discovered in the mid-seventies. Soon he would be marketed as a hot commodity leading to eventual rock stardom. That tale was told during a short documentary film shown before John's first of two sold-out concerts at the Ryman Auditorium on March 19, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee.

John Mellencamp played his songs and "Other People's Stuff" in Nashville.
In Nashville, Mellencamp cut a figure that was reminiscent of two local icons - Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash. The latter due to his all black attire and the former because the outfit was a blue-collar style jumpsuit. With only a splash of white showing from his exposed T-shirt beneath the traditional workingman's clothes John was letting you know he sided more with the average Joe than the glamour and glitz preferred by the King of Rock and Roll. But, like those amazing legends Mellencamp had plenty of hits and rock radio staples to play for the congregation at the city's Mother Church.

Like church, Mellencamp informed us that there would be plenty of hand clapping, dancing and sing alongs and some quiet moments, too. He then proceeded to lead a 100-minute revival that was full of purpose and musical manna mixed with revered songs containing both spiritual and social messages.

John's own journey to become the beloved musician he is today wasn't always an easy one and the opening movie made it a point to let the audience know Mellencamp was self-aware of these facts. He let himself be conned early on into changing his surname to "Cougar" to concoct an image and obscure his small town roots. He also confessed to allowing stubbornness and selfishness to side-track his career at the peak of his momentum. A heart attack would sideline him for another three years in the midst of a comeback.

 John Mellencamp Puts His Masterstrokes On Display in Nashville
John Mellencamp and his six-piece band were impressive in Music City.
Despite beating himself up a bit over these facts the heartland rocker never really slowed down and on his 24th album and latest record Other People's Stuff remains prolific as he continues his evolution from rock star to self-described "Poet" and folk singer of his generation. And, despite it all, Mellencamp did become known for his expressive impressionist paintings such as the one that adorns the cover of this covers album.

But, it is his earnest pop rock confections that he would become most famous for even as they drew upon his ample visual art talent. Consider the colorful "Pink Houses" and the starker "Rain on the Scarecrow" that both contained beautiful brushstrokes that resonated with the masses as they came to life with vivid imagery during the MTV revolution of the early 80's.

The stage set-up for this North American spring tour run of 36 dates was noticeably dominated by darker shades and hues perhaps reflecting these trying and uncertain times. But, the activist and philanthropist was content to let his music do most of the talking except for a quick summation of his political position as the spoken introduction to "Easy Target" that had Mellencamp professing his beliefs in equality, fairness and justice for all.

 John Mellencamp Puts His Masterstrokes On Display in Nashville
John Mellencamp led a mini-revival in the Mother Church.
"I'm up from Indiana down to Tennessee," John truthfully sang in his song "Peaceful World" and Mellencamp closed the night by reminiscing about old times - specifically coming to Nashville during the early Johnny Cougar days. He told a story about having to bailout longtime bandmate, guitarist and sidekick Mike Wanchic from a Davidson County holding cell. Earlier on that same evening the pop singer had been hustled in a game of billiards by longtime Nashvillian "Minnesota Fats" to the tune of 500 dollars.

Still, Mellencamp was as cool as a cue ball in Mid-Tenn as he and his talented six-piece band painted a powerful portrait of an American treasure in action. By the end of the show the one-time "Cougar" let a wry Cheshire cat smile emerge just a few times through his tough guy exterior. We can chalk that up to the fact that he was having as much fun as we were.

Setlist: Lawless Times | Troubled Land | Minutes to Memories | Small Town | Long Gone (From the Bowlin' Green) (Louis Armstrong cover) | Stones in My Passway (Robert Johnson cover) | We Are the People | Lonely Ol' Night | Check It Out | Longest Days | Jack & Diane | Easy Target | Overture (instrumental with violinist and accordionist) | Rain on the Scarecrow | Paper in Fire | Crumblin' Down | Authority Song / Land of 1000 Dances | Pink Houses | Cherry Bomb | Long Gone (From the Bowlin' Green) Reprise
17  MELLENCAMP.COM ANNOUNCEMENTS / Announcements & Updates / John To Receive The ASCAP Harry Chapin Humanitarian Award June 5th on: March 14, 2019, 09:19:10 am
John To Receive The ASCAP Harry Chapin Humanitarian Award June 5th
03.11.2019 - WhyHunger to Honor Musician John Mellencamp at 20th Annual Chapin Awards Gala
--GRAMMY Winner fêted for work with farm community-
WhyHunger — a leader in the movement to end hunger and advance the human right to nutritious food in the U.S. and around the world—will present singer-songwriter John Mellencamp with the ASCAP Harry Chapin Humanitarian Award during the 20th annual WhyHunger Chapin Awards on June 5, 2019 at City Winery in New York.

Mellencamp, a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and recipient of the Woody Guthrie Award and the John Steinbeck Award, has used his music to document the ‘struggles of ordinary people seeking to make their way’ according to Rolling Stone. In 1985, he co-founded and organized Farm Aid, a groundbreaking concert to raise awareness and funds to strengthen America’s family farmers. He continues to serve on the organization’s board of directors.

“From his advocacy to his work with Farm Aid, John has continuously been a voice for promoting sustainable farming practices aimed at supporting farmers and their communities,” said Noreen Springstead, executive director, WhyHunger. “We are thrilled to recognize John. Not only does he embody the artist activist legacy of the Chapin Awards, but his decades long work to help build a just food system aligns well with WhyHunger’s mission to ensure the right to nutritious food for all.”

The ASCAP Harry Chapin Humanitarian Award shines a spotlight on artists who have proven their commitment to striving for social justice and creating real change in combatting hunger worldwide. Over the past 20 years, WhyHunger has honored a cadre of artists at their annual Chapin Awards including Harry Belafonte, Pete Seeger, Barbra Streisand, Yoko Ono Lennon, Tom Morello, Jon Batiste, Jackson Browne, Judy Collins, Emmylou Harris, Darryl 'DMC' McDaniels, Michael McDonald, Peter, Paul & Mary, and Kenny Rogers.

Emceed by Pete Dominick, comedian and host of SiriusXM’s Stand Up with Pete Dominick, the Chapin Awards gala raises critical funds to support WhyHunger’s work to end hunger and advance the human right to nutritious food in the U.S. and around the world.

To learn more about the WhyHunger Chapin Awards gala and to purchase tickets, visit

About WhyHunger
Founded in 1975 by the late Harry Chapin and radio DJ Bill Ayres, WhyHunger believes a world without hunger is possible. We provide critical resources to support grassroots movements and fuel community solutions rooted in social, environmental, racial and economic justice. WhyHunger is working to end hunger and advance the human right to nutritious food in the U.S. and around the world. Learn more at

18  MELLENCAMP DISCUSSION / Articles / Mellencamp Show’ reveals an old rocker who can still let loose on: February 23, 2019, 03:06:29 pm

One cue that this wouldn’t be the typical concert was its billing as “The John Mellencamp Show” and the note that it would start promptly at 8 p.m.

The lights at the Providence Performing Arts Center dimmed at exactly that hour Friday night for a 15-minute biographical film about the 67-year-old Rock and Roll Hall of Famer featuring clips of interviews, American Bandstand and MTV appearances and his disembodied voice talking about an industry that made him change his name, tried to direct his music and contributed to his heart attack at the age of 42.

The film stoked the audience for the arrival of Mellencamp and his six-piece band for a 90-minute music set that almost lifted the roof off the building. As Mellencamp, self-billed as the “American Poet,” told the largely middle-aged crowd, “There’s going to be songs you know, songs you don’t know, songs you can sing along to and songs you can dance to.” And that was no lie.

Mellencamp, who’s logged 22 Top 40 hits and earned a Grammy Award, has been rocking his own blend of blues, rockabilly and solid rock ‘n’ roll since the 1970s but he sounded as fresh and as powerful as ever, and when he slung low in that squatty rocker’s crouch to wail on his guitar for “Paper and Fire,” it may as well have been 1985 all over again.

True to his statement, Mellencamp offered solid versions of such hits as “Small Town,” “Pink Houses,” “Jack and Diane” and “Lonely Ol’ Night,” his husky voice rolling easily over the lyrics that tell tales of Middle Americans’ struggles and dreams. He also introduced the audience to others like the more bluesy sound of “Lawless Times,” “Minutes to Memories” and a grittier “Troubled Land.”

His band featured prominently at points, too, lending a more countrified sound to the tunes. The guitars of Mike Wanchic and Andy York ground out a fiery chorus in “Pink Houses” while Troye Kinnett on accordion and Miriam Sturm on violin combined for a riveting overture that led into “Rain on the Scarecrow.” Sturm’s playing was fierce and full bodied, whether she was offering a wail back on “Easy Target” or haunting notes in “We Are the People.”

The show was well-paced with a soulful acoustic section in the middle for which Mellencamp demanded quiet attention, telling anyone wanting to shout to go into the lobby for a beer. His down-home demeanor added charm to “Longest Days,” a song prompted by his elderly grandmother telling him “life is short, even in its longest days.”

The acoustic portion of the set darkened a bit with “Full Catastrophe” and “Easy Target,” but Mellencamp kicked it back in high gear with a raucous version of “Crumblin’ Down” before rounding out the night with more nostalgia in “Authority Song” and “Cherry Bomb.”
19  MELLENCAMP DISCUSSION / Articles / A Serenade for Alternative America: John Mellencamp in Peoria, IL on: February 19, 2019, 11:37:38 am

I sang my songs for millions of people / Sang good and bad news…

- John Mellencamp, “Void in My Heart.”


The role of the troubadour, a Middle Ages musician, was to travel from village to village and kingdom to kingdom, to share with the common people important developments of war, famine, power, and palace intrigue. Because literacy rates were low, the troubadour told the news in rhyme and with melody so that it would become memorable to the audience. John Mellencamp once said that had he not achieved any success in the rock and roll genre, he would have lived as a modern troubadour – throwing his old acoustic guitar in the back of a rusty, used car, and driving the highways, county roads, and backstreets of America, singing his songs and telling his stories to whatever barroom or coffeehouse crowd would listen.


After selling millions of records, scoring 23 top ten hits, and winning nearly every musical award of prestige available to a performer in his generation, his professional prosperity is inarguable. Remove the accessories and amenities of “rock star” status, however, and it becomes equally clear that Mellencamp’s artistic mission and message is no different from the unpackaged and primitive troubadour of antiquity. Rather than an old car with a loud muffler and dented fender, Mellencamp arrives in town in a tour bus, and instead of a single guitar in a scratched case, a truckload of instruments accompanies he and his band.


On February 15, 2019, John Mellencamp and his bandmates brought their storytelling show of rock, folk, and blues to Peoria, Illinois. The largest city on the Illinois River, with a population of approximately 120,000, Peoria dwarfs the “small town” of Mellencamp’s origin – Seymour, Indiana – but it shares with Seymour the qualification of “where they are not,” as in the advice Mellencamp recalls Pete Seeger giving him for creative longevity, “Go where they are not.”


As his international popularity proves, Mellencamp writes and sings songs that resonate with people who live “out in the sticks,” to use a phrase from his own “Cherry Bomb,” and those who, as Jack suggests in “Jack and Diane,” “run off to the city.” The origin of his art, even so, has the particularity of roots in where “they are not.” The characters who populate his songs soar and suffer far from the glamour of Hollywood, the gild of New York, and the governance of Washington DC.


The songs that Mellencamp sang – the stories he told – in Peoria presented vignettes and vistas of an alternative America. Although Mellencamp made only one overtly political statement from the stage, it was impossible to separate the American dream of Mellencamp’s music from the monstrosity currently troubling the country.


A twenty minute documentary film on Mellencamp’s life in music, and the impact of his songs on his fans, opened the evening. The smoky voice of the singer narrated footage from throughout his career, describing the highs and lows of his experiences, cataloguing everything from his begrudging acceptance of the “Cougar” moniker at his management and record company’s insistence to his heart attack in the early 1990s. The consistency through it all was his commitment to make real music, regardless of whether or not, at least in the beginning, he had a fake name. The testimonies of a diverse range of people, including a painter in Brooklyn and a pastor in Phoenix, who claim Mellencamp as inspiration acted as evidence of his accomplishment.


It is tempting to see the broadcast of the documentary to a captive audience as self-congratulation, but it is just as easy to view it as the narration of another story – Mellencamp’s own – a story that stands in stark contrast to the contemporary musical culture of frivolity and flimsiness. It is hard to imagine many of the current crop of hitmakers rolling into Peoria, 35 years from now to sing songs that make people raise their fists, swing their hips, and wipe their tear-filled eyes.


If art and authenticity are casualties of America’s current decline into corruption and silliness so too are many other principles and ideals, as the opening song dramatized. While his band held their instruments, and his two guitarists – Andrew York and Mike Wanchic – exchanged bluesy licks and loud shouts, Mellencamp took the stage backlit; his Elvis Presley hair showing streaks of gray. He counted four, and the band jumpstarted “Lawless Times,” the closer from 2014, “Plain Spoken.”


Mellencamp’s fiery and angry voice describes the criminality of Wall Street, Catholic priests, and even internet piracy to depict a nation out of control, drunk on its own avarice and ego. The music, unlike the rage of its subject, is full of whimsy. Reminiscent of Bob Dylan’s recent records, it is a traditional shuffle full of light instrumentation. Like Dylan, Mellencamp takes turns that are comedic, closing the gap between comedy and tragedy. If everyone is jockeying for their own power, profit, and pleasure, while they watch the foundation of their nation slip away, maybe in addition to a crisis, it is also a bad joke.


“Lawless Times” transitioned seamlessly into “Troubled Land,” a dark blues song from another recent Mellencamp release, chronicling the despair too prevalent in a country at war with itself. Dane Clark, pulling off the first of many musical tricks, kept a basic beat but did so with aggression and dynamism. The guitars had the crunch and grind of a bulldozer, while Miriam Strum played her violin with symphonic beauty. One of the best kept secrets of rock and roll music is that Mellencamp has one of the most capable and powerful bands in the business. No matter what story he tells, their execution of his composition enables his music to resound with full force.


Mellencamp’s vocal was its roughest in the earliest portions of the show, but with each song, he was able to hit higher notes and shout with greater clarity. It was almost as if the urgency of his lyrics, the excellence of his band, and the promise of his purpose strengthened his voice with each second.


To round out the opening quartet, Mellencamp returned to his classic record, Scarecrow. An album elemental to the emergence of the Alternative Country genre, it animates the lives of family farmers, lonely lovers, and elderly mill workers. “Minutes to Memories,” one of the best songs Mellencamp has written, had the Peoria audience singing along loudly to lyrics like, “An honest man’s pillow is his piece of mind.” It was an endorsement of an America alternative to the country visible on television news channels. It was an endorsement of an America where money does not dictate behavior, but virtues of fidelity, integrity and compassion are triumphant. “Small Town” brought a roaring audience to its feet.


Mellencamp has always expressed derision of the term, “Heartland Rock,” but if such a classification is legitimate, these are among it most definitive songs. They are rock and roll with twang – simple but emotive guitar meets an earnest vocal; plainspoken yet poetic verses of substance leading into booming, anthemic choruses, a solid and propulsive drum beat more Motown than British invasion.


The only break in the music was Mellencamp’s preemptive admonition of “loud motherfuckers” who like to scream during the “quiet section” of the show. “Do it in the hallway,” the singer said before adding, “And I heard someone yelling when I came out here, ‘Start the show!’ If you don’t like it, fucking leave. I don’t want you here.”


An alternative America, unlike the culture accessible through social media, is one where not every thought and feeling is worthy of amplification, and not every outburst and vulgarity is welcome.


The “quiet section” followed a few additional full band performances – a muscular take on Robert Johnson’s “Stones in My Passway,” the populist protest song, “We Are the People,” an especially rollicking “Lonely Ol’ Night,” and the melancholic folk meets rock depiction of middle class life, “Check It Out.”


Acoustic versions of “Longest Days,” “Jack and Diane,” bolstered by a deafening crowd sing-a-long, “The Full Catastrophe,” with Mellencamp channeling Frank Sinatra and Tom Waits while the keyboard player provided the sole accompaniment of bluesy and jazzy piano, and “Easy Target,” a ballad paying tribute to Black Lives Matter, complemented each other well. Before playing a note on his acoustic, Mellencamp told the story of the inspiration of “Longest Days.” His grandmother, while dying at the age of 100, told him, “Life is short even in its longest days.” The poignant, heartbreaking and soul caressing performance put Mellencamp’s number 1 hit, “Jack and Diane,” in an entirely new frame, making it clear that even in his early years of rock stardom, Mellencamp was exploring the tragic side of human life, and wrestling with the most universal of all truths: mortality.


While the plaintive piano notes of “Easy Target” travelled throughout the theater, Mellencamp declared his belief in “a living wage” and in “equal access to great education” to mitigate and prevent extreme income inequality. As the song ended, the singer took a knee.


In the alternative America, art is not reducible to background noise, the farce of “reality” television, or Twitter feeds. It is the medium through which people can explore the most critical of experiences – the life and death matters of urgency in the public square of politics, but also in the private spirit of individual introspection.


Within American music, Mellencamp is a prizefighter, and despite his advancing years, which he referenced a few times throughout the Peoria performance, he still is punching hard in championship bouts. Mellencamp’s excellent band returned to the stage, and he led them through fiery and defiant renditions of “Rain On the Scarecrow,” “Paper in Fire,” “Crumblin’ Down,” “Authority Song,” and the ultimate Midwest anthem of populist and progressive politics, “Pink Houses.”


With his band wearing formal attire, and given his well-earned status of elder statesman of American rock, Mellencamp might no longer seem like the rebel of Johnny Cougar era, but he is every bit as rebellious as he was when he made his debut. His enraged and impassioned delivery of “Rain On the Scarecrow” and “Paper in Fire,” especially following “Easy Target,” demonstrated an authentic fighting spirit of protest, desperately needed in a musical culture that has become far too complacent.


Bassist Jon E. Gee fought with his instrument as if he were taming a wild animal during “Crumblin’ Down,” playing a muscular line that would have made Lemmy Kilmister proud. The band plowed through with the pull of a truck, and Mellencamp hit his notes with deftness and emotion. On the next song, when he sang, “I fight authority…” it was easy to take his declaration at face value.


Mellencamp more playfully interacted with the audience than on previous tours, often stopping to tell stories about his youth, his children, and his bandmembers. Closing the show with a “song about old times,” “Cherry Bomb,” he led the band through the beautiful and breezy Carolina soul number, painting pictures of an era when “holding hands meant something.”


I was not yet born during the days of alternative America that “Cherry Bomb” describes, but hearing a romantic tribute to moments of forgiveness, friendship, optimism, and honesty, I knew that, even if it is nostalgic or overly idealistic, that is exactly where I want to live. 

David Masciotra ( is the author of four books, including Mellencamp: American Troubadour (University Press of Kentucky, 2015) and Barack Obama: Invisible Man (Eyewear Publishing, 2017).
20  MELLENCAMP DISCUSSION / Articles / Cincy Music Aronoff Center Show Review + Photos on: February 12, 2019, 09:19:56 am
Link to photos

Review by John Calderas

After more than forty years of making music, John Mellencamp has solidly come into his own. In Mellencamp’s early years, his management tried to mold him into a rock star and tagged him with a series of names that he’s still shaking off (I still reflexively catch myself saying “Cougar” even though he dropped it decades ago). It would have been easy to write him off as another flashy rock singer with a goofy moniker, but even back then it was obvious there was something special underneath that separated him from the pack; nobody’s lining up for sold out theater shows from The Hooters or John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band in 2019.  Maybe it comes from Midwestern roots, maybe it just comes from growing up in a town where excitement is chili dogs and Friday night football and having a moment of clarity that there’s more out there. 

While Mellencamp’s early work hinted at the miniature drama of living in small town Midwest, those themes were easy to lose among straight ahead rockers like “I Need a Lover” or smooth radio gloss like “Ain’t Even Done with the Night”.  You can hear him reaching for it on American Fool (“Jack and Diane”) and getting closer on Uh-Huh (“Pink Houses”), but maybe those songs give themselves up too easily. After he found success and got his feet under him, he paused, pulled back and took a wider world view and let the world fade to black and white. With new perspective, his work came into sharp focus on 1985’s Scarecrow. The black and white cover (by recently-deceased Chicago photographer Marc Hauser) hints at the seriousness of the work within and the opening stark, cinematic lyrics drive that home: “Scarecrow on a wooden cross/Blackbird in the barn/Four hundred empty acres that used to be my farm.” His protagonist went from making out with girls in the back seat to worrying about the family farm going under in the space of five short years. 

Realizing electric guitars were limiting to his new vision, he took it further and stretched out sonically on Lonesome Jubilee, embracing folky instruments and lacing the songs with lovely bits of banjo, dulcimer, dobro, mandolin, accordion and, the greatest addition- Lisa Germano’s sadly beautiful fiddle. As his sonic palette and social awareness expanded, his writing elevated to match his new reach. It was still Reagan-era America and people were promised a new era of rebirth and economic security; working folk were reassured that it was “Morning in America.” But morning light casts long shadows and daybreak hits harder when it’s at the end of a bleary-eyed third shift you had to work to put breakfast on the table.  His confidence and ambition let him tackle the new sound and mature subject matter with a credibility that a young Johnny Cougar could never have mustered. To cap it all, as his influence, social awareness and network spread, he joined with Neil Young and Willie Nelson to start Farm Aid (an organization that supports family farming and is still going strong) and gained a whole new level of street cred. Over the last four decades he’s stayed active with music, film and painting and is ready to release a new album.

Which brings us to last night’s sold-out show at the Aronoff Center (billed as “American Poet – The John Mellencamp Show”). It’s the third date of a tour that will take him across the United States for the next three months. As the lights dimmed, a short film recounting Mellencamp’s history (peppered with interviews with him, soundbites of fans and interviews with a fellow painter) played. A sobering thought is that music was just a side hustle to fund his early painting career. If things had turned out differently, the American songbook would be short a few crucial chapters. And if the sobriquet of “American Poet” is a lot to live up to, he didn’t seem too concerned as he took the stage to massive applause and launched into the first number (“Lawless Times” off 2014’s Plain Spoken).  As the band shifted into a boozy, almost-zydeco mode, he sang tongue-in-cheek about not trusting anyone, even himself:

“Well, I don't trust myself

I don't trust you

Don't get too sick

It'll be the end of you

Don't expect a helping hand

If you fall down

And if you want to steal this song

It can be easily loaded down”

The song is five years old, but it’s wry sense of humor bites even harder today.

While there was always an underlying layer of the blues to his music, it often got blended and diluted with country, rock and folk. He shed his guitar and paced the stage, digging into Robert Johnson’s “Stones in My Passway” and working the lip of the stage with preacher-like fervor as the lights cast him in stark relief. 

He pumped his fists, danced and clapped along with the audience as he fed on the warm reception to “Lonely Ol’ Night” and “Check it Out”

The band exited, and John put on an acoustic guitar and set up the intro to “Longest Days”. He recounted a story about visiting his grandmother when she was bedridden and near the end of her life. She asked him to pray with her and near the close of her prayer she told Jesus that she and John (Buddy) were ready to come home. He was shocked and babbled that he wasn’t ready to come home yet, he had a lot more sinning to do. His grandma chastised him for being sarcastic when she was talking to Jesus and admonished him, “Life is short, even in its longest days”. As enjoyable as the full band numbers were, this song highlighted the simple purity and distillation of a lifetime of songwriting. It made me want to see him do an entire acoustic solo show just to see how the shades of the songs change when they are stripped down to their bare essence.

In the film before the concert, and older clip of John expressed how he got frustrated having certain expectations for performing and the danger of becoming a human jukebox. It seems he’s made peace with it because as he strummed the opening of “Jack and Diane” the crowd rippled with excitement. The crowd sang along, and John moved away from the mic entirely during the chorus. He likely could have just played guitar and let the audience sing the entire number; nobody would have complained.

After that crowd pleaser, he decided to throw a few curveballs.

Much like Bob Dylan, Mellencamp’s voice has weathered as he’s aged. He credits it to cigarettes and still defiantly defends his usage (side note- check out his 2015 appearance on fellow Hoosier David Letterman’s show. John walked out carrying a lit cigarette and didn’t stop puffing for the entire segment. I’ve never seen a segment like it in the modern talk show era). Whether it’s nicotine or an artifact of aging, the slight rasp he had as a young man has grown deeper and craggier. Accompanied only by a somber barroom piano, he transformed “The Full Catastrophe “into something resembling Kurt Weill via Tom Waits. It was a shocking stylistic turn, not one that the whole audience was on board for.  His violinist returned, joined the pianist, and they all doubled down for “Easy Target”, another dark cabaret tune:

“Crosses burning

Such a long time ago

400 years and we still don't, let it go”

It’s not quite Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit”, but it’s a long way from the Tastee Freeze.

And just to stretch the audience a bit more before snapping back for the second half, the violinist and accordion player ran through an instrumental medley of several of John’s songs. The audience perked up as the band played the recognizable strains of “I Need a Lover”, maybe expecting Mellencamp to come out and pick up the song, but it was not to be.

Mellencamp has claimed he started the No Depression music movement. It’s arguable, but it’s not hard to see some similarities between artists like Jeff Tweedy or Jay Farrar, at least in the small town midwestern roots, revamping of traditional music and blurring of the lines between rock, folk and country. If he didn’t start it, he at least planted some of those seeds in the 80s

For all the work he’s done in the last few decades, the back half of the show features material solely from his 80s catalog (Uh-huh, Scarecrow, Lonesome Jubilee). It’s a run through of some of his strongest work, a set that could have maybe been the A-side of a beat-up cassette of his hits you would have made back in the day.

The full band reentered, and the guitarists came armed with electric guitars. The drums cracked explosively as they tore into a ferocious version of “Rain on the Scarecrow.”  They pushed to the front of the stage en masse and the force was startling, guitars roaring as the violin cut through them. The band barely paused as they kicked into a Stones-y “Paper in Fire,” smash cut to “Crumblin’ Down,” veered into “Authority Song” (here mashed up with Wilson Pickett’s’ “Land of 1000 Dances”), and finally “Pink Houses.” 

As the evening wound down, John told a story about gathering his kids around years ago and wanting to tell them about the past. He said he’d never been much for nostalgia but felt he should have the discussion. He marveled that after about three minutes his son Hud (then 9) said, “I hate to tell you dad, nobody cares about the past” and walked away.

John pointed to the side of the stage and said his son Hud (now 24) was here tonight with his Cincinnati girlfriend and that it’s ironic now because to them eighteen months is the past. “For me, eighteen months is a nap”. He cracked that he’s not going to sleep anymore, only nap, because you never hear: “John Mellencamp died in his nap…it’s always his sleep”. 

As much as Hud discounted nostalgia, John pulled him and his girlfriend to help out on a song all about nostalgia. Even after that strong run of songs, “Cherry Bomb” was his finest moment. The song has such an easy sway and grace to it, led by the simple steady thwack of the drums, the bounce of the bass that incredible fiddle.  On record, it was a time when the world slowed down, and he was confident enough to let the song breathe and spin out. He even stepped back and let a woman take part of the vocal duties. He realized that he didn’t need to be in every frame of his own movie and his hand was firm enough to guide the song, but light enough not to weigh things down.

Hud and his girlfriend danced and smiled, and he gamely leaned in to help sing the chorus. From time to time, they smiled and put their arms around each other.

The lyric “Seventeen has turned thirty-five/I’m surprised that we’re still livin’” could have come across as maudlin or self-pitying, but it seemed more matter-of- fact.  Like one day you turn around and suddenly your youth is gone, and you have kids of your own to worry about and you just say, “Huh…how did that happen?” If he felt any irony about singing it at 67 it didn’t show. And when he sang, ‘Got a few kids of my own…” and looked lovingly at Hud, it was a perfect moment, maybe one that will only happen in Cincinnati. Maybe someday Hud will tell the story to his kids – if they’ll sit still long enough to listen.
21  MELLENCAMP.COM ANNOUNCEMENTS / Announcements & Updates / Bid to Win Concert Tickets and Autographed Guitar on: February 12, 2019, 09:16:08 am
Want to come see John in concert AND give back? You could win a pair of tickets to one of John's upcoming shows and take home an autographed @SilvertoneGuitars Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar. Bid now on @Charitybuzz and help @ChrisEvertCharities provide prevention and intervention programs to eliminate drug abuse and child neglect.

Enjoy two tickets for a John Mellencamp Camp Show performance. Plus, John will personally autograph a Silvertone Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar for you.

Experience will occur within the following date range(s):
Mar 09, 2019 to Apr 30, 2019
Experience blackout dates: Exclude all performances at Beacon Theater in NYC
Additional Lot
Valid for 2 people.
Location of Seats Unknown but artist-list.
To assure your choice please pick performance as soon as possible. Then, winner will be required to provide attendees full names and cell number 2-weeks before listed event date.
Guitar is new.
Guitar will be signed to the name of the winner's choice.
Please allow 1-3 months for signing.
Once details have been confirmed no changes can be made.
All sales are final. All tickets must be used for the event and or experience initially confirmed.
22  MELLENCAMP.COM ANNOUNCEMENTS / Announcements & Updates / New Tour Merch in the Mellencamp Store on: February 07, 2019, 02:19:39 pm
New Tour Merch is in the Store!
23  MELLENCAMP.COM ANNOUNCEMENTS / Ask / Re: VIP stuff on: February 04, 2019, 10:55:51 am
Received mine today...thanks! Stupid question...what is the fabric thing that unfolds?

It is a picnic blanket. 
24  MELLENCAMP DISCUSSION / Introduce Yourself / Re: Hello on: January 31, 2019, 09:13:48 am
Hello from Barnard Castle in England. A tiny little market town with one street and one castle Smiley

I've been listening to John since I was a kid, and just stuck with him. He's the ultimate male singer/songwriter. He somehow managed to speak to me in a small town about some of the issues in life we never think other people understand.

I've recently been picking up the missing albums from my collection, and just managed to get the Rural Route set.

Been a visitor here for a while and figured it was time to join.

25  MELLENCAMP.COM ANNOUNCEMENTS / Announcements & Updates / Store Valentines Day 40% off Sale on: January 29, 2019, 10:59:04 am

Use this link

26  MELLENCAMP.COM ANNOUNCEMENTS / Announcements & Updates / John and Harry Smith's Full Interview on: January 11, 2019, 02:56:15 pm
Watch the full 30 minute interview with John and NBC's Harry Smith on the Today Show. Taped at John's New York City apartment the week after his 24th album, “Other People’s Stuff,” was released to discuss his paintings, his music industry beginnings, the upcoming tour and more.
27  MELLENCAMP.COM ANNOUNCEMENTS / Ask / Re: Has anyone received their copies of Other People's Stuff? on: December 20, 2018, 12:08:59 pm
Just an fyi for those that have not received their CDs.  This is the answer I received from the record label.

"For those fans that have not received their CDs it can be blamed on holiday warehouse hours and crowded shipping channels".

They are on their way.
28  MELLENCAMP DISCUSSION / Articles / John Mellencamp Debuts At No. 1 On Top Rock Albums With 'Other People's Stuff' on: December 20, 2018, 12:04:47 pm
Billboard - By Kevin Rutherford John Mellencamp lands a No. 1 album on Billboard’s Top Rock Albums chart for the first time in his career, as his new album, Other People’s Stuff, rules the ranking dated Dec. 22.

The set debuts atop the tally with 44,000 equivalent album units earned in the week ending Dec. 13, according to Nielsen Music. Nearly all of its sum came via traditional album sales.

Mellencamp had previously snagged five top fives on Top Rock Albums, which began in 2006 (many years after Mellencamp first reached the all-genre Billboard 200 chart back in 1979). Before Stuff, with three -- 2007’s Freedom Road, 2008’s Life Death Love and Freedom and most recently, 2017’s Sad Clowns & Hillbillies reaching No. 3.

The album also represents Mellencamp’s 11th top 10 on the Billboard 200, his first since 2010’s Nothing Better Than This and best-charting album since Freedom 10 years prior.

Stuff features covers in its tracklist, including songs by Robert Johnson, Jimmie Rodgers and more.

29  MELLENCAMP.COM ANNOUNCEMENTS / Announcements & Updates / John and NBC's Harry Smith Interview December 13th on: December 13, 2018, 01:41:52 pm
John and NBC's Harry Smith Interview
30  MELLENCAMP DISCUSSION / Articles / Cryptic Rock 5 out of 5 Star Other People's Stuff Review on: December 04, 2018, 11:45:42 am
A true storyteller who continually contributes new insights to the Americana zeitgeist, John Mellencamp is poised to deliver a brand-new anthology, the wonderfully-titled Other People’s Stuff, Friday, December 7, 2018, via Republic Records.

A true-blue American Singer-Songwriter, Mellencamp is probably best known for his radio-smashing work in the ‘80s, such as the classic, radio-friendly mega-hits “Small Town,” “Hurts So Good,” “Jack & Diane,” and “Cherry Bomb,” among many, many countless others. In total, he has amassed some 20+ Top 40 hits over the past forty-odd years, been nominated for 13 Grammy Awards, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March 2008 by friend Billy Joel. Furthermore, as one of the creators of Farm Aid, along with Willie

For Other People’s Stuff, Mellencamp ventures into compilation territory, bringing together 10 tracks that have not previously appeared alongside one another. Some come from studio albums, while others are rarities that initially appeared on tribute albums, Documentaries or, in one instance, was first performed at The White House for President Barack Obama. While the majority of the tracks appear to be remastered and remixed for inclusion, a few are identical to their originals – and most of them are actually not, ahem, other people’s stuff.

To prove this fact, Other People’s Stuff opens with “To The River,” which is most definitely a piece of Mr. Mellencamp’s own personal ‘baggage.’ If you have ever wondered what any of Human Wheels would sound like updated for 2018, well, behold “To The River,” which originally appeared on the 1993 album. Here, the track appears to be remastered and remixed, allowing the band and their instrumentation to shine in bolder, melodic glory, all while highlighting Mellencamp’s stellar storytelling and kicking off this compilation with a warm kiss of nostalgia.

You would never know that “Gambling Bar Room Blues” is not an original Mellencamp offering thanks to this smoky, bluesy retelling of the 1932 Jimmie Rodgers’ classic. Next, fiddle opens the bittersweet jam of “Teardrops Will Fall,” originally from 2003’s Trouble No More. Here, a warm, upbeat caress of sound belies the lyrical confessions of heartbroken sadness. If you’re a fan, you already know the track – and will love this remastered version, which is a subtle and respectful update to an already wonderfully-authored classic.

He goes funky for the folksy percussion of “In My Time of Dying,” which originally appeared on 1997’s Rough Harvest. With Mellencamp’s vocals lower in the mix here, the band are allowed to shine – from the phenomenal percussion that anchors the entire track to the sweeping melodies of the fiddle. This flows perfectly into a more recent original reference, “Mobile Blue,” which represents Sad Clowns & Hillbillies. There’s no retelling here: this is the version of the song that appears on the 2017 collection – and that’s okay. It was great then and it’s just as great a year later, a sultry stroll through Mellencamp’s gritty, yet soulful American storytelling.

In a world that seemingly looks to muddy every new musical composition with ridiculous effects, Mellencamp stays fully true to his minimalist vision on the powerful “Eyes on the Prize,” the collection’s first video/single. Originally performed at The White House in 2010, consider this a protest song, one that looks to make bold statements through its simplicity. Think about it and check out the video, which explores timely, hot button issues.

That signature gritty storytelling encompasses “Dark As A Dungeon,” which originally appeared in the 2017 National Geographic Channel Documentary From the Ashes. A true glance at Americana, the song mirrors the Documentary, which explores the legacy of America’s coal-mining industry. Not another entry into the “war on coal,” both “Dark As A Dungeon” and From the Ashes look toward the humanity of the situation and not the environmental implications.

To seek a respite from this emotional heft, Mellencamp and his gang go funky for the toe-tappin’ “Stones in My Passway,” which originally appeared on 2003’s Trouble No More. Then, this is followed by the lament of “Wreck of the Old 97,” a classic Folk song, one which Mellencamp initially recorded for 2004’s compilation of Folk ballads, The Rose and the Briar: Death, Love and Liberty in the American Ballad.

Stretching his wings and going slightly left of center, Mellencamp ends with a 1968 classic Stevie Wonder hit, “I Don’t Know Why I Love You.” The raw confessional is perfectly-suited to Mellencamp’s gritty stomp, placing his own spin onto the track while maintaining a smoother vocal performance and echoing the sultry smoothness of the great Wonder himself. It closes the collection out with a bang, capping off an album that is truly an anthology of now unburied treasures.

Despite the nature of the anthology, Other People’s Stuff is cohesive; these are songs that fit one another perfectly, all individual pieces of the great American songbook belonging to Mr. Mellencamp. The brilliance here is in how well each track fits the others and in how flawlessly Other People’s Stuff fits into the recent Mellencamp oeuvre – this could easily be the follow-up to 2017’s Sad Clowns & Hillbillies.

Okay, so, in a sense, it is exactly that, but as an anthology that includes several covers, Other People’s Stuff rises above the typical compilation package that blindly mashes material together to try and buy an artist some time while keeping their name fresh. Mellencamp doesn’t need to buy himself anything – he is a known, beloved, as well as treasured commodity, and clearly there’s a reason for that. Enjoying rummaging through Other People’s Stuff, Cryptic Rock give John Mellencamp’s latest 5 of 5 stars.
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