Style: Rootsy, raw Americana; compare to Hank Williams, early Elvis, Woody Guthrie
Top tracks: "Right Behind Me," "No Better Than This," "Each Day of Sorrow"
John Mellencamp stopped caring about hit records a long time ago, and his musical legacy is all the better for it. His latest album is a hopelessly uncommercial foray into early rockabilly, honky-tonk, and topical folk, and hearkens back to when Elvis was still a skinny Mississippi kid and Woody Guthrie was hopping freight trains. T Bone Burnett's production is dependably drenched in '50s reverb, and Mellencamp delivers a set of classic tunes highlighted by "Right Behind Me," an update of Robert Johnson's spiritual wrestling match "Me and the Devil Blues." Haunted by ghosts—Holy and otherwise—these songs retain the spooky timelessness of the best American music.1
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