Categories
Articles
Social
tags
Holly Gleason Bonnaroo death #vivaroo Bonnaroo 2015 Guy Clark Prada Dada The Zelda Chronicles Zelda pet loss Alex Bevan Emmylou Harris Lee Ann Womack the Wonderspaniel Aerosmith Ali Berlow Bruce Springsteen Dwight Yoakam James Taylor John Oates Kenny Chesney Matraca Berg Patty Loveless Tom Petty Vince Gill Andy Langer Bob Dylan Cleveland Dan Baird Dawes disco Donna Summer Earl Scruggs Earth Wind & Fire Ed Helms Jackson Browne Jim James Johnny Cash Lou Reed Lyle Lovett Michael Stanley Mumford & Sons Music pop music punk Reggie Watts Rita Houston Rodney Crowell Ronnie Dunn Sam Bush Sherman Halsey Steve Popovich Tim McGraw Townes Van Zandt WFUV Willie Nelson " supermoderls " THE LITTLE PRINCE "Faith "The Voice 27 Club 9/11 addiction Akron Allen Brown Allison Krauss Allman Brothers Almost Famous Americana Amy Winehouse Andy Parker Anna Nicole Smith Antoine de Saint-Exupery Ashley Capps Atlanta Rhythm Section Authenticity Bangles Beatles BeeGees Belle & Sebastian Big K.R.I.T. Bill Bentley Bill Johnson Billy idol Black Prairie bluegrass Bluegrass Situation Bob Seger Brenwtood Vets Britney Spears Buddy & Julie Miller C. Orrico Cameron Crowe Carnival Music Cat Powers Catherine Deneuve CBGBs Celebrity Culture Charlie Sexton Chris Mad Dog Russo Chris Stapleton Chris Whitley Christopher Hanna Cindy Crawford Clash Clive Davis Cobain cowpunk Cultural Icons Cyrinda Fox Dan Einstein Dan Fogelberg Dan Tyminski D'Angelo Danny Joe Brown Danny Morrison David Bowie David Byrne David Gleason Dazz Band death of a pet Del McCoury Del McCoury Band Delaney & Bonnie Dennis Kucinich Dick Clark Dignity Dolly Parton Doobies Doug Dillard driving Dylan Eddie Montgomery Elle King Elton John EMI Music Eric Clapton ESQUIRE facing the inevitable Fame Whores father fathers & daughters Feank Yankovic Fellini feminism film Flatt + Scruggs Foals Forest Hills Stadium Frank Sinatra Funk Brothers Garth Brooks Gary Stewart Gary W Clark Gary Wells George Harrison George Jones George Michael George Strait Gerald LeVert Gil Scott-Heron Glenn O'Brien golf Grammy Awards Grammy mourning grief Guitar Town Guster heartland hippies HITS Hot Chelle Rae Hozier I Will Always Love You iconic death integrity Jack Johnson James Brown janet jackson Jason Isbell Jeff Bates Jeff Hanna Jewly Hight Jim Halsey Jimmy Jam Jimmy Webb Joan Didion Joe Diffie Joe Ely John Bassette John Fullbright John Hiatt John Hobbs John Leland John Prine Joni Mitchell Joplin Kacey Musgraves Keith Knudsen Ken Weinstein Kentucky Headhunters KKen Weinstein Leon Russell Leonard Cohen Levon Helm Life Lilly Pulitzer Little Feat loss Lowell George Madonna Marlene Dietrich Marshall Chapman Mary Chapin Carpenter Matt and Kim Meatloaf Merle Haggard Midway Midwest moonshiners Morrison mourning MTV music festivals Music Row My Friend Bob My Morning Jacket Naomi Campbell Nas Nathan Bell Nei Young nihilism in pop music Nile Rodgers Nitty Gritty Dirt Band Of Monsters and Men old huard Nashville Palm Beach Parliament Funkedelic passion Patsi Bale Cox Patsi Cox Patti Davis Paul McCartney Paul William Phil Walden Philip Bailey places polka pop culture Preservation Hall Jazz Band press conferences Prince Purple Rain Radnor Lake Ramones Ray Price Rayland Baxter Reeves Gabrels Retirement Rhiannon Giddens Richard Corliss Richard Gehr Richard Pryor Robin Gibb Rock & Soul Superjam Rust Belt Ryan Miller Sarah Godinez scenes Scooter Caruso sex Shiela E smells Solange Knowles songs songwriiter songwriter spoiled rock stars Springsteen Steve Earle Steven Tyler Stevie Nicks Stevie Ray Vaughn Stevie Wonder stinky goodness Sturgill Simpson Tammy Wynette Tammy Wynnette Tangiers Tears for Fears Terry Lewis THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN The Bluegrass Situation The Bodyguard The Dreaming Fields the Hermit Club the Kentucky Headhunters the Players the Shaker Heights Country Club the things that matter the wonder spaniel thoughts Tim Hensley TIME Magazine Tin Machine Trixie Whitley University of Miami untimely death Valerie Carter Verdine White Village Voice Waffle House Waylon Jennings Wendy Pearl WHAM! Whitney Houston Whitney Houston death Wilco Wonderspaniel Wu Tang Clan WVUM Ziggy Stardust
Friday
Feb152008

“CUTTIN’ HEADS”…and to the chase

American Boy. American Man. American Fool. John Mellencamp has been each in spades. He plied his AM radio hookcraft in FM’s glory days, though never quite becoming the workingman’s patron saint a la Springsteen, a part of the fabric of our culture. But as the boy’s become a man, he’s also let himself appear vulnerable – and it’s in the chambers of his doubting heart that this American’s connections are strongest.

But, in the end, timing is everything, and it’s timing that gets him over once more. For Mellencamp, Cuttin’ Heads (Columbia) started as a personal pondering of social and sexual politics, only to be transformed by 9/11 into a State of the Union address in every sense. Tackling racism, pettiness, anger and the way we treat each other culturally, Mellencamp unflinchingly deconstructs the erosion of r-e-s-p-e-c-t and tries to rebuild it through a series of images that paint America and Americans the way we are. Of course, Mellencamp has never balked at embracing issues – think his populist Scarecrow – but this album shows that he’s also lately been embracing the city street, putting his music where his mouth is, as it were. Those who’ve kept up with his releases know that’s not new, either, but never before have his urbanities been so well integrated into his backroad roots-rock.

With a staccato beat and some rough-edged guitar, Mellencamp pitches the bigotry story of "Cuttin’ Heads" against a James Brown-invoking testimonial from Chuck D, who professes street cred ain’t all about the marketing. To further reinforce, Pat Peterson wails "Don’t call me nigger because you know I don’t like it like that."
More...

As the boy’s become a man, he’s let himself appear vulnerable.

Embracing a far more elegant – but no less infectious – hook on "Peaceful World," the Indiana-based songwriter offers an almost prayerlike meditation on how it should be. Casting against the notion of a road trip to leave it all behind, Mellencamp and India.Arie offer a straightforward pledge against racism: "Better get hip to what Martin Luther King had to say … Hatred to each other is not OK ... If you’re not part of the future then get out of the way."

This embrace of the hiphopcracy is much more than an aging rocker’s self-conscious grab for relevancy. But it’s also not the whole disc. "Deep Blue Heart" finds Mellencamp returning straight to the country to brood in close harmony with Trisha Yearwood; the song’s about love’s death and the shroud that cloaks its battered remains. Placed amongst the more political content, it almost reads as an elegy for America – or the mourning serves as prelude to the sexual/romantic explorations to follow.

Both "Just Like You" and "The Same Way I Do" trace fragile connections, affections he’s afraid will break or evaporate. Yet those affections deliver him from the futility that Cuttin’ Heads rails against. Mellencamp’s voice is split-rail basic, solid, a bit rough, ultimately dependable. It’s what he casts it against that sets apart his gift for the gentle embrace or streetcorner Romeo swagger.

It’s cast perfectly in the carnal trilogy that kicks off with the Don Juan self-pity of "Women Seem," falters through "Worn Out Nervous Condition" – which addresses short-circuited attractions, premature climax and the state of exhaustion from wanting-it-to-work – and closes with the tropical undulations of "Shy." In three songs, Mellencamp tackles every stumbling block men face at the onset of the deeper desire – and creates a CliffsNotes for doubt-resolution that could supplant the self-help section of any bookstore.

"In Our Lives" ties it up, demystifying the rock star as "one of us." Mellencamp’s defiance of the glam life may not find a parallel in our own, but there’s no question he doubts, struggles, rages and wonders at the same things. It may be why – in addition to hooks that have kept him between our ears whether we wanted "Authority Song" or not – many of us are still listening 16 albums later.

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.
Member Account Required
You must have a member account on this website in order to post comments. Log in to your account to enable posting.