Plain Spoken (2014)

1. Troubled Man 2. Sometimes There's God 3. The Isolation of Mister 4. The Company of Cowards 5. Tears in Vain 6. The Brass Ring 7. Freedom of Speech 8. Blue Charlotte 9. The Courtesy of Kings 10.Lawless Times


Talk about an aptly name for an album. This album is very plain, and, to a degree, very "spoken". No, it's not Mellencamp narrating depressing stories over an acoustic guitar ala Bruce Springsteen, but he clearly is favoring the messages as opposed to the melodies. This fact may scare some, as Mellencamp is known to be a political whiner and crybaby, but lyrically, a lot of that is absent this time around. That's not to say this is a happy album. Oh no. Mellencamp will never be "Mr. Happy Go Lucky". His lyrics seemed to be a reflection of a guy getting on in his advanced years and looking around at his personal surroundings with an odd mixture of disappointment and contentment. In other words, the message on this album isn't much different than on his last few albums.

Sadly, this album doesn't compare to his last few albums in terms of the music that is offered. He seems to simply be slugging through the songs here and there are very few hooks, and very few songs that make you feel one way or another. I have a feeling that if I saw him play this entire album in concert, front to back, I would get bored halfway through the show and get up and walk around.

Speaking of concerts, if you don't know now, all people remotely interested in this artist should know that his live performances are much more toned down these days, and he refuses to play the majority of the songs that made him famous 20-30 years ago. That seems a bit pompous in my opinion, but he does make this fact clear whenever he discusses the topic these days. Sure, he's being true to himself like a "real" artist should, but why alienate millions of fans?

Back to the record. He picks up a bit of steam on the last three cuts of the album that seem to stand out better. Blue CharlotteB>, The Courtesy of Kings, and Lawless Times are clearly the most interesting things here. It seems a bit curious for these to be on the tail end of the record, as many listeners will have given up by then. Anyway, this is definitely Mellencamp, surrounded by mostly acoustic instruments with a hint of Americana and Folk, and this album is definitely what most expect from him at this point in this career. It's just that the songs don't quite stand out as they have like on his last few albums. Plain Spoken. Yep.

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