Saturday, October 02, 2010

John Mellencamp in an existential mood...

John Mellencamp has a fantastic new folksy album out: No Better Than This. I will paste below a glowing review from The New Yorker - putting this effort at par with Dylan's folk re-creation album, As Good as I Been to You (or the even better World Gone Wrong). But I also wanted to highlight a gentle, skeptical and existential tone in some of Melencamp's new songs. For example, check out this fantastic opening song, Save Some Time To Dream:



Save some time to dream
Save some time for yourself
Don’t let your time slip away
Or be stolen by somebody else
Save some time for those you love
For they’ll remember what you gave
Save some time for the songs you sing
And the music that you’ve made

Could it be that this is all there is?
Could it be there’s nothing more at all?
Save some time to dream
‘Cause your dream could save us all

Save some time for sorrow
Cause it will surely come your way
Prepare yourself for failure
It will give you strength some day
Try to keep your mind open
And accept your mistakes
Save some time for living
And always question your faith

Then his Right Behind Me has a Tom Waits feel to it:

I know Jesus
And I know the devil
They’re both inside of me
All the time
This ain’t no picnic
That I’m livin’
Just a resting place
Before it’s time to go
You see the devil
He thinks he’s got me
But he ain’t got me
No

And then you have Each Day of Sorrow:

So all of you angels
Don’t waste your words
Dog-gone my soul
I aint’ no good

This life is too much trouble
For a fellow like me
If I had something to give you
I’d give it to you for free

Each day of sorrow
Brings you closer to goodbye
If I weren’t so afraid
I’d lay down and die

Well I ain’t been baptized
I ain’t got no church

If you like good song-writing, then do check out No Better Than This. Here is an excerpt from a review from The New Yorker:

The album is drenched in historical significance. The songs, performed by Mellencamp and a small band, were recorded in mono, on a nineteen-fifties Ampex 601 portable machine. Even more notable is where they were recorded: Mellencamp committed his new compositions to tape at three landmark locations—Sun Studios, in Memphis, where Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and others helped invent rock and roll in the mid-fifties; the First African Baptist Church in Savannah, one of the oldest African-American congregations in the United States; and the Gunter Hotel, in San Antonio, where Don Law recorded the Delta blues legend Robert Johnson in 1936. 
... 
In fact, the traditional forms seem to free up Mellencamp’s songwriting; he can be a strident lyricist, but here his anger subsides and his generous storytelling gift comes to the fore. The title track and “Each Day of Sorrow” are intense, limber rockabilly numbers. “Thinking About You” is a plainspoken love story that recalls Mellencamp’s sometime collaborator John Prine. “Easter Eve,” a tale of manhood and violence with plenty of left turns, plays like a younger cousin to Dylan’s “Highlands.” And “No One Cares About Me,” lyrically bleak, is set to music that is fleet and engaging. Mellencamp has been heading in this direction for a while. After “Cuttin’ Heads,” in 2001, a strong album loaded up with guest stars like Chuck D and Trisha Yearwood, his work became progressively darker. On “Trouble No More,” in 2003, he covered blues and folk standards; “Freedom’s Road” and “Life, Death, Love and Freedom” offered pessimistic appraisals of the state of the nation. An explicit return to folk, blues, and early rock could have been a kind of memorial service; instead, it’s a loose, lovely celebration.

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