John Mellencamp

Freedom's Road | Universal
By MIKAEL WOOD  |  January 29, 2007
3.0 3.0 Stars
John Mellencamp spent his last two studio albums in experimental mode, inviting Chuck D and India.Arie aboard 2001’s Cuttin’ Heads and digging into unvarnished country blues on ’03’s Trouble No More. But the lifelong Hoosier also released a fine greatest-hits set three years ago, and on his new disc, it sounds as if the act of sifting through his oldies might’ve reminded him of the knack he has for solid heartland rock. Freedom’s Road addresses his pet topics — hard work and small-town life, not to mention freedom and the road — in catchy-enough tunes built with rootsy guitar licks, boot-scooting beats, and the occasional splash of spaghetti-western strings. In “Someday” and “Our Country” (the latter recently scored a Chevrolet spot), the inventive writing injects some fresh air into familiar notions. But it’s hard to believe that the hilariously literal-minded “The Americans” isn’t someone skewering Mellencamp’s just-folks approach. “I’m an American from the Midwest,” he announces over a cowpunk groove straight out of Steve Earle. “When I speak, I have a Southern drawl.” Appreciate the honesty, but, come on, man.
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