Review: Mellencamp puts the touch without fear on the American classics


John Mellencamp, "Other People & # 39; s Stuff" (discs of the Republic)

In his youth John Mellencamp was known to be arrogant. That exuberance brought him to the big stage, where he became a stadium rocker with an adventurous spirit.

Mostly he was not at the height of his contemporaries named Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty, but sometimes he took more risks.

Mellencamp's fearlessness is well represented in his latest album, "Other People & # 39; s Stuff", a collection of cover songs, some of them American classics, coming from four decades of work.

There is a version of "Keep Your Eyes on the Prize", the old civil rights anthem that Mellencamp presented at a White House event in 2010. Mellencamp's delicate interpretation may surprise those who do not expect such sentimental notes from a white man of the heart.

There is also a slower version of "Wreck of the Old & # 39; 97", the iconic song of the train, and a song by Merle Travis titled "Dark as a Dungeon" that Mellencamp originally performed for a documentary on coal mining. Mellencamp's terrestrial cigarette-shaped growl conveys the honesty of the working class on both.

There are cuts that fit perfectly to "The Lonesome Jubilee", the most beautiful album of Mellencamp, with accordion and violin that improve the atmosphere charged with charge. And there are suggestions throughout, in the range of songwriters he has embraced – from Jimmie Rodgers to Robert Johnson to Stevie Wonder – that Mellencamp's exuberance sometimes leads him where others will not go.

This is an essential truth about Mellencamp's career that this collection strengthens with taste – that even when the songs are not his, the man takes chances.

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