Tuesday, January 4, 2011


John Mellencamp put out a great album in 2010, and I feel like it didn't get enough attention.  In a way, I can see why.  He's been pretty prolific over the past decade, and although I'm a big fan, I haven't enjoyed all of his recent stuff. The last album that I loved - and I really loved it - was 2003's Trouble No More. One of my favorite songs by John, though, was "Walk Tall," a
collaboration with Babyface from John's 2004 best-of, Words and Music.

But No Better Than This is 180 degrees different from "Walk Tall." Produced by T-Bone ("Him Again") Burnett - the second record in a row they worked together on - it was recorded in mono on reel-to-reel tape in a few places with lots of mojo: the Sun Records studio, a church basement and in the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio, where Robert Johnson recorded. Those locales set the bar pretty high, and while it isn't going to change the world the way Johnson's sides, or the records made at Sun did, it lives up to high expectations.

In recent years, Mellencamp has become sort of a "greatest hits" guy live, so I don't know if his audience really goes for the ride with him when he plays newer material (the way, say, Springsteen's audience does). It would be a shame if they didn't: the songs here are really great and are among some of his best.

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