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). Those who've come to associate him with theme songs to bad car commercials should check his reawakening on this late-career turnaround.