While Jack White was raging across the street at the Bridgestone Arena and duetting with Loretta Lynn, John Mellencamp performed the second of a two-night stand at Nashville's historic Ryman Auditorium, and the through-line between the aging — but still cigarette-puffing — heartland artist's catalog and the country music of today couldn't have been more apparent.

Long before Jason Aldean was singing about taking the tractor for another ride under the "Amarillo Sky" or Justin Moore was celebrating the tiny dots on the map in "Small Town U.S.A.," Mellencamp was writing world-wearied country rockers about a fading farming culture, the small-town lifestyle and, that tent pole of contemporary country, nostalgia. The increasingly Americana-leaning singer touched all of those bases during his sets at the Ryman. Here are the eight songs that best connected the dots.