Title - 'No Better Than This' (Rounder)
Artist - John Mellencamp
As stated on the front of the CD, these are all brand new John Mellencamp songs, and yet, that said, every single one of them comes with that recognizable latter-day Mellencamp melancholy.
Indeed, for his Rounder Records debut, the entire 'No Better Than This' album was recorded with Mellencamp and his band all playing live in one room using a 55 year-old Ampex tape recorder and just one vintage microphone.
Produced by the legendary, and Grammy-award winning T Bone Burnett, these brand new thirteen tracks have one other thing in common with each other - new to Mellencamp also: All the songs were recorded at three historically important locations: Sun Studio in Memphis, TN (where Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis all first recorded); the First African Baptist Church in Savannah, GA (the oldest Black church in North America, dating to 1775); and in Room 414 of the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio, TX (where Robert Johnson made his first recordings in 1936).
Well, all that recording fact stuff now out the way, what about the album? Well, it's mellow, reflective of classic American musical traditions including blues, folk, gospel, rockabilly, and country, and never gets out of first gear. Mellencamp writes stories, parables that immediately grab and speak to people of all walks of life - the true essence of American music that is so missing from todays music scene.
Me, I loved the old Johnny Cougar, but we all know that version of Mellencamp has long since said goodnight to the spotlight. 'No Better Than This' is true, organic music made by real musicians, is not an album that will ship a million records, but is ripe for an audience looking for hearty Americana.