Trouble No More
Trouble No More: The Making
of a John Mellencamp Album
First Appeared at The Music Box, March 2004, Volume 11, #3
Written by John Metzger
There always has been more to John Mellencamp than initially meets the eye. Beyond the pop-rock star whose success was fueled by the rise of MTV, lies an artist who has fought tirelessly to maintain his credibility despite massive mainstream exposure, and this is what has given his career the ability to survive well after the strains of Jack and Diane had faded into the backdrop of í80s pastiche. Indeed, lurking within his catalog are gems like Scarecrow and The Lonesome Jubilee, which show that had he not been quite so prosperous, heíd have fared equally well as a folk or blues artist.
Within that context, Mellencampís latest endeavor Trouble No More makes perfect sense. After sorting through hundreds of albums, he plucked twelve songs from the annals of American history, ranging from Woody Guthrieís outlaw ballad Johnny Hart to a scorching rendition of Son Houseís Death Letter to a sterling cover of Lucinda Williamsí Lafayette. Elsewhere, he delivers Hoagy Carmichaelís classic Baltimore Oriole with a raspy, Tom Waits-ish growl; turns the Dickey Doo & the Dontís tune Teardrops Will Fall into pure Appalachian soul; and paints John the Revelator with a powerful gospel hue.
Never before has Mellencamp sounded this relaxed in the studio, and this undoubtedly is a by-product of the organic evolution that occurred during Trouble No Moreís recording. The seeds for the album took root at a tribute concert for Billboard editor Timothy White, at which Mellencamp reinvented Robert Johnsonís Stones in My Passway. Executives at Columbia Records witnessed the emotional potency of his performance and agreed to allow him to pursue his vision, out of which grew his modern-day take on To Washington, a protest song that, in its new capacity, challenges the essence of the Bush Administration.
The project is highlighted quite nicely on Trouble No More: The Making of a John Mellencamp Album, a short film that culls 120 hours of footage into a 50-minute drama. Now available on DVD, the documentary is an inessential, but largely entertaining affair that perfectly captures the ups and downs of the recording experience ó including the tedium, the tension, the passion, and the intensity of the process. It demonstrates the manner in which songs are typically constructed, and it shows Mellencampís devotion to obtaining an earthier sound via the utilization of vintage analog equipment. Clearly, the documentaryís creation was usurped, and it subsequently was employed as a marketing tool, airing on TRIO last October. As such, itís likely to be of little interest to casual fans. Still, it does serve its purpose quite well, and at the very least, it gives an insightful overview of the creation of one of Mellencampís finest endeavors to date.
Trouble No More ó
Trouble No More: The Making of a John Mellencamp Album ó
Of Further Interest...
Trouble No More is available from Barnes & Noble.
To order, Click Here!
Trouble No More: The Making of a John Mellencamp Album
is available from Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2004 The Music Box