Freedom's Road (2007)

1. Someday 2. Ghost Towns Along the Highway 3. The Americans 4. Forgiveness 5. Freedom's Road 6. Jim Crow 7. Our Country 8. Rural Route 9. My Aeroplane 10.Heaven is a Lonely Place 11.Rodeo Clown


Throughout my reviews of this artist's work, I have noticed that I tend to sadly shake my head (in a written sense) whenever Mellencamp gets political. It's not that I disagree with a lot of his politics (to be fair, I do in some cases), but I've never appreciated the tone and manner in which he chooses to express them. He's always come across as a bit immature. All of that changes on this release. On this record, Mellencamp has finally written a lyrical masterpiece as well as a musical one. This is the strongest statement he's made in about two decades.

If one were to actually go back in time to the Johnny Cougar days and give an estimate of what this artist might sound like in his mid to late fifties - the sounds on this album are a fair estimation of what you might guess he would sound like. He has his rustic, american roots throughout the tracks, yet the songs have enough punch to somewhat rock as well as you might expect of someone of his years. One of the strongest songs on here, The Americans is about as close to a follow-up to Pink Houses from 1983's Uh-Huh as your going to find, yet it's fresh enough to stand on its own merits.

The album has quite a variety in terms of its messaging and themes. Low and behold, he's actually quite optimistic on several of these songs, and even seems to be maybe a tad regretful of much of the anger that penetrated many of his early records. As mentioned, there's plenty of bitterness here, but it's done quite beautiful - if that's even possible. Jim Crow is a wonderful statement of the ugly persistence of racism, that although not quite as transparent, Mellencamp still smells its stench. Rural Route is a bit of depressing piece about all things wrong, but the sparseness of the song adds to its bite and he succeeds there as well.

Sadly, this album is probably the most remembered for "the song in the Chevy commercial" (Our Country). Mellencamp stated he was only trying to get his songs heard by people - since radio simply didn't play artists of his age on the airwaves anymore. I'm sure he's regretting his decision with the obvious and unfortunate overkill of the particular commercial. It's too bad, since it is a fine song. I would vote for the last song (that's actually a "hidden" track), Rodeo Clown as the best of the lot. Yes, it's yet another political stab at those oh-so-dirty Republicans - George W. Bush, in particular. But it's done well, and sounds very much like it could have been written and/or recorded by The Rolling Stones. The only song that doesn't do much for me is Ghost Towns Along the Highway which has a good theme lyrically, but its a bit stuck musically. Everything else here is worthy of his very best.

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