John Mellencamp

Trouble No More

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Trouble No More, John Mellencamp's first covers album, came together rather quickly, following his performance of Robert Johnson's "Stones in My Passway" at a tribute concert for the late Billboard editor Timothy White. From all accounts, it was one of the highlights of the show, and it lead to this quickly recorded collection of covers. In a little over two weeks, Mellencamp and his band cut a bunch classic blues and folk songs, mixing in a Lucinda Williams song, a Hoagy Carmichael tune, Skeeter Davis' "End of the World," and "Teardrops Will Fall," recorded by Wilson Pickett, for good measure. All this suggests that Trouble No More is a loose, rather unorthodox affair, sometimes playing it fairly traditional and sometimes not, which is precisely what this record is. While there are no radical re-inventions here, even with him penning new lyrics to the traditional folk tune "To Washington," all the music sounds distinctly Mellencamp, since it has the same Appalachian-tinged classic rock foundation that he's been trafficking since The Lonesome Jubilee. The arrangements go back and forth between spare, bluesy cuts featuring no more than one guitar to a full-blown band, so big it nearly sounds ornate. Mellencamp takes this music seriously, so he gives committed performances, even if he takes it serious enough to really loosen up and give the music a little grit and unpredictability. So, Trouble No More is a fairly somber affair, but that's really no different than Mellencamp's other albums. What gives it some distinction is that there's a freshness to the music, largely derived from its quick recording, a quality that has been lacking in his records for many years now, arguably since Big Daddy. That freshness makes Trouble No More a cut above the average covers record of the late '90s/early 2000s, and a cut above many recent Mellencamp albums, as well.

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