Long before Puff Daddy morphed into Diddy with forty name changes in-between, there was Johnny Cougar who is better known today as John Mellencamp. Unlike Puffy, who name changes may be to avoid being associated with his last failure of and album, Mellencamp had to do with shady management and shadier record companies. Throughout the eighties, Mellencamp played second fiddle to Bruce Springsteen when it came for being a voice for the working class and much like The Boss he is still around giving a voice to Middle America.
During the eighties, Mellencamp built his following looking at the underbelly of Reaganomics with anthems like Pink Houses releasing five albums during his presidency. Things have gotten much worse during the Bush era but Mellencamp has been conspicuously absent during the time taking his longest break between records, so there is plenty of material for Mellencamp on his latest album, and first since 2001, Freedom’s Road.
Undoubtedly you have heard the first single from the album and if you watch football I’m sure you are sick of My Country already. Luckily the song it stuck near the end of the album song you are already immersed in it and the song almost sounds fresh again. The rest of the album is much like My Country in that it isn’t overtly political so the songs don’t sound preachy, but if you want to be preached all you have to do is listen closely to the lyrics. Mellencamp saves his most biting commentary for the hidden track Rodeo Clown, but the drunken pool hall sing-a-long may even have the most ardent Bush backers humming along.
That’s not to say the album is even close to perfect, most notably The Americans with it’s overtly simplistic and patriotic lyrics sounds like something that was written by a fifth grader, well or Toby Keith. Aside from The Americans, the rest of Freedom’s Road spends its time giving mention to things that have gone unmentioned for way too long. Ghost Towns Along the Highway deals with the vanishing small towns across the nation. The title track reminds us that sometime people hide behind the word Freedom. Jim Crow, a duet with Joan Baez, is how racism has changed in post 9/11 America. Then Rural Road is a sad story about drugs, abduction, and murder in a small town and how the press deals with it all. Hopefully Mellencamp doesn’t wait as long for his next album as there are only two years left in this administration. Granted there is always Jeb ’08.
Song to Download - Ghost Towns Along the Highway
Freedom’s Road gets a on my Terror Alert Scale.