It’s been more than 30 years since John Mellencamp scored Number One hits with “Hurts So Good” and “Jack & Diane,” and broke the Top Five with “Pink Houses” — three raw, rootsy mega-hits that helped define the future sound of Americana music. If Bruce Springsteen built his own career chronicling the ups and downs of blue-collar workers in New Jersey, then Mellencamp did the same for farmers and small-town families in the Midwest, carving out a sound that was as rustic and big-sounding as the landscape that inspired it. Now, nearly four decades after the release of his first album, he’s gearing up for another record.
Due September 23rd, Plain Spoken is Mellencamp’s 22nd studio album. It’s also his first release for Republic Records, the New York-based label that signed Mellencamp to a “lifetime recording contract” in late May. After working with producer T Bone Burnett on his last two albums — 2008’s Life, Death, Love and Freedom and 2010’s No Better Than This — Mellencamp returned to the producer’s chair to oversee Plain Spoken himself.
Full of twang, swing and screech, and laced with everything from harmonica to organ to the trebly thwack of an acoustic guitar, the album will arrive 10 days after September 13th’s Farm Aid. Held this year in Raleigh, the annual benefit concert that Mellencamp, Willie Nelson and Neil Young co-founded in 1985 helps save American family farms from foreclosure.
Currently, the Farm Aid appearance is Mellencamp’s only show on the books, although the singer recently announced plans to launch an 80-city North American tour, beginning in January, in support of the new album.
Here’s the Plain Spoken tracklist:
1. Troubled Man
2. Sometimes There’s God
3. The Isolation of Mister
4. The Company of Cowards
5. Tears in Vain
6. The Brass Ring
7. Freedom of Speech
8. Blue Charlotte
9. The Courtesy of Kings
10. Lawless Times