Review: Freedom’s Road – John Mellencamp

First, be aware that this is a biased review. I am a big Mellencamp fan. Primarily I like his small town sentimentality, and unapologetic social and political views (even if I don’t always agree with him).

Before I listened to the entire album, I had only heard parts of two songs–“The Americans” and “Our Country”, the Chevy Truck commercial song. Based on what little I had heard I was hopeful that Mellencamp was returning to music that had tugged at my heart and mind in his late eighties albums Scarecrow, Lonesome Jubilee and Big Daddy. I was not disappointed. There are some great songs on Freedom’s Road, and as usual most won’t get airplay because of the social and political undertones. Which is a shame because our nation needs more than pep-talk songs right now. And “The Americans” and “Our Country” are pep-talk songs, no doubt, yet even they have some social undertones.

There are a few songs that really can make you stop and think if you decide to really listen to the lyrics instead of just letting the music flow over you. There is nothing wrong with letting the music flow over you, I’m just pointing out that there is a depth to most of Mellencamp’s songs. The second song on the album hit me over the head pretty hard. I was listening to the album while driving. I was heading to Pittsburgh, and because I was in a big hurry I decided to take the big interstates instead of the two lane US routes that I enjoy more. The song “Ghost Towns Along the Highway” was playing out before me. Dead little towns visible from the interstate, and no exit to get to them. My life seems to be fated to include many coincidences. The first time I listen to this song, I can see it out the windshield. If I’d had a camera I could have recorded a music video that fit this song perfectly.

The song “Rural Route” drives home the problems facing rural communities these days. I can relate to this because they keep busting meth-labs all along the rural routes in the rural counties of southern Ohio; one was set up just a few miles from the farm where I grew up. Mellencamp does not shy from non-politically correct topics either. “Jim Crow” is a stab at our government (local, state and federal) and citizenry attitudes and the continuing struggle for civil-rights. He says, “Look what Jim Crow’s done and gone, Went and changed his name, Don’t know what he’s going by these days, But he’s still actin’ the same.” I am glad that I am not the only one that feels that the current rash of suborned “laws” and “state constitutional amendments” restricting the rights of the disenfranchised, especially our gay friends and neighbors, are just “jim crow” with at new target and a new name. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in the military is just a revision of “Separate but Equal” no matter how you look at it.

“Freedom’s Road” the title track reminds me of Mellencamp’s earlier work and it also reminds me of “Dust in the Wind” by the Mammas and Pappas. It is a very good song. However, my favorite lyric on the album (so far) is from “Our Country”:

“There’s room enough here
For science to live
And there’s room enough here
For religion to forgive”

I recommend this album even if you are not a big fan of Mellencamp’s work.

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One Response

  1. Mine!

    It is good. Somewhere between his old work and his blues album. A very good blend, with the Mellencamp uniqueness.

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