The Lonesome Jubilee (1987)


 
1. Paper in Fire 2. Down and Out it Paradise 3. Check it Out 4. The Real Life 5. Cherry Bomb 6. We are the People 7. Empty Hands 8. Hard Times for an Honest Man 9. Hotdogs and Hamburgers 10.Rooty Toot Toot

 

Give John Mellencamp credit for realizing that he had reached a sort of "peak" with 1985's Scarecrow, and that if he was going to have to top that, he was going to have to change things up a bit and not make a carbon copy. To be honest, he doesn't actually "top" his last release, but this is a solid effort, and everything that he puts into this effort works very well.

The "Cougar" in his name is now officially gone - not that anyone was really paying that much attention. Whether or not that's a coincidence with his most "grown up" or "serious" effort to date is debatable. The awesome thing here is that Mellencamp has brought elements to his music on this release that simply weren't anywhere else to be found in the synthesized MTV era of the mid to late 1980's. The album features fiddles, accordians, banjos and dulcimers galore. It has a strong sense of Americana invoked in all of the songs, yet he manages to sound just like you'd expect him to sound. So there aren't really any shocking surprises, just solid work by a solid artist that's decided to even dig further into his roots.

Sadly, Mellencamp would never quite be as "popular" or "radio friendly" as he would here. It would be unfair to say that he's peaked - that's far from the truth as anyone with even a remote interest in this artist can attest to, but his songs weren't quite so dominating on the top 40 airwaves after this effort. Of course it's hard to top any album in terms of radio popularity that features three strong songs that everyone knows. Paper in Fire, Check it Out and Cherry Bomb were all represented well on radio stations across the country, and serve as a strong representation of what the whole album sounds like. If you like those songs, you'll like the whole album.

The downside is that his preachiness and bitchiness are becoming more and more a focus of his themes, and he never quite figured out how to address his sentiments without sounding like, as Beavis and Butthead would say, "that guy who's always complainin'". It gets a little bit laborious as he whines and moans on songs like Down and Out in Paradise and/or Hard Times for a Honest Man, but you can't really criticize an artist for singing from his heart. Regardless of whether or not you agree with him, you can't argue that he was faking it to make record sales in the guise of fake sentimentality. He truly cared about the people he was singing about.

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