Release Date: Jul 15, 2008
Record label: Hear Music
JOHN MELLENCAMP Life Death Love And Freedom (Hear Music) Rating: NNNN From the tombstone-grey album cover with John Mellencamp lying back with his eyes shut to lyric musings like "Just put me in a pine box / six feet underground" (from If I Die Sudden), there's a decidedly dark emphasis on the second word in this album's title. It's coaxed out of a solemn Mellencamp incredibly well by iconoclastic producer T Bone Burnett, who gives Life a low, growling rumble with buried weepy slide guitars and touch-soft percussion. Mellencamp sounds grizzled and contemplative about his life and, ever the true American patriot, the unnerving state of his country (Troubled Land).
The onetime Johnny Cougar firmly embraces geezerdom with Life Death Love and Freedom. ”Just put me in a pinebox/Six feet underground!” sings John Mellencamp on ”If I Die Sudden,” one of this album’s slow-burning rockers. And for much of the T Bone Burnett-produced collection, his grizzled vocals seem as if they belong to someone who really is about to shuffle off this mortal coil — which perfectly suits such melancholy tracks as the terrific riffing blues of ”John Cockers” and the Tom Petty-ish ”Troubled Land.” Though he may be contemplating mortality, Mellencamp, with his weathered snarl, still sounds remarkably alive.
He's dropped the 'Cougar' from his name and stripped down his roots rock, gamely trying to out-gruff John Hiatt and out-drawl Steve Earle, with producer T-Bone Burnett in tow. Despite high points – the powerful 'Longest Days'; the romping 'My Sweet Love'; the brooding 'John Cockers' – most of these 14 songs struggle to leave a lasting impression. .
Rock icon gets candid and melancholic on latest John Mellencamp’s blue-collar rock 'n' roll takes a somber turn on Life Death Love and Freedom, his first album since 2007’s Freedom Road. What a difference one year can make. Tackling some of the same subjects that fueled Freedom Road’s rousing sound, the fifty-six-year-old Mellencamp now pitches his tent closer to home, writing inward-looking songs that reflect his country’s troubles.