Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee John Mellencamp releases his 24th studio album Other People’s Stuff via Republic Records.
Although the title’s something of a misnomer, it does accurately sum up the vintage sentiments that give this album its common bond. Still, it’s a viable concept, especially given Mellencamp’s reputable stance as a heartland hero and blue collar troubadour. That is, of course, the tack he’s taken for the better part of his career, ever since he shed the posturing of his initial incarnation as Johnny Cougar, rock star and raconteur.
Nevertheless, the obvious question is why Mellencamp would choose to revisit songs he originally recorded. While these songs suggest varied sources, many revisit earlier offerings Mellencamp sang himself on previous albums. The easy answer seems to lie in his desire to express the outrage that he, like most similarly-minded musicians, feel in today’s maelstrom of polarized politics and increasing division. Fancying himself as a folk singer in the populist tradition—think Dylan, Springsteen, Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie—he tackles these tunes with a gritty, rough hewn sensibility that reflects both his passion and purpose. The tattered yet timeless narrative “Wreck of the Old 97”,” the craggy folk blues of the oft-covered standard “In My Time of Dying” and the erstwhile narrative entitled “Mobile Blue” maintain that sense of resolve, yet still offer due reverence to the originals.