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John Mellencamp

No Better Than This (Rounder)

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The yelps of Johnny Cougar have never felt so distant. Mellencamp joins producer T-Bone Burnett in the Southern rooms where Robert Johnson and Elvis Presley made their mark, as if to join spirits. The songs’ simplicity and directness may also remind you of Hank Williams. Mortality, destiny, failure and regret are balanced by pleasure at being alive in the title tune, worthy of Sun Records about 1954 with extra wisdom and reverb. “No One Cares About Me” is a harsh yet funny plea by a fellow who’s “spotty at best.” Mellencamp’s dry Midwestern mien blossoms anew when placed in what to him is sacred ground.

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