Mellencamp is not a man to do things by halves. Perhaps touring with Godfathers of Americana, Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan, doubled his quest to seek out an authentic setting on his second album with illustrious producer T Bone Burnett.
Whatever the reason, recording with a 55-year-old Ampex Reel To Reel recorder in such landmark music rooms as Sun Studios, Memphis and the San Antonio hotel room where blues pioneer Robert Johnson was first captured on tape helps summon the ghosts addressed in his songs. The spare arrangements allow musical colours – blues, downhome country, hot club Jazz – to shine through.
But it’s as a songwriter for the new Depression that Mellencamp really makes his mark, packing sexy interludes and humorous asides into essentially hardluck strewn, dark-hearted sagas. Stripping away excess dressing highlights a true craftsman with No One Cares About Me or the wonderful Easter Eve, prime examples of the timeless songwriting on an album that rings down the years to address both past and present.