John Mellencamp

Rough Harvest

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When John Mellencamp left Mercury Records for Columbia in 1997, he owed his longtime label two more albums -- one was a hits collection (The Best That I Could Do), the other was Rough Harvest. Not quite a rarities collection, not quite a live album, Rough Harvest offers a selection of acoustic arrangements of Mellencamp's personal favorites (which happen to lean toward album tracks from the '90s), plus several covers recorded live at his studio, Belmont Mall, in 1997. On paper, this may seem like it's nothing more than a toss-off, just a way to fulfill contractual obligations, but it doesn't play that way. There's a warm feeling to the performances -- a nice, loose, off-the-cuff feeling that enhances the emotions in these low-key, subtly crafted songs. The newer songs benefit from this setting, as do familiar hits like "Rain on the Scarecrow" and "Jackie Brown" and the covers of "In My Time of Dying," "Farewell Angelina," "Under the Boardwalk," and "Wild Night." This may be a gentle difference that only devoted fans will notice, but that's who this album was made for, and they'll undoubtedly enjoy this intimate record.

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