Album: John Mellencamp

Trouble No More, Motown
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The Independent Culture

It's the current fashion for established artists to delve into their roots and make an album of traditional songs. That's, apparently, how Cerys Matthews' Cockahoop started out, and more recently there has been Natalie Merchant's trad-folk collection The House Carpenter's Daughter and, more pertinent, Robert Palmer's splendid blues album Drive, which bears many similarities to John Mellencamp's comparable blues collection but is attacked with rather more gusto. Trouble No More ranges a little wider, opening with a strutting slide-guitar version of Robert Johnson's "Stones in My Passway" and a strident reading of Son House's "Death Letter", but managing to take in a cover of Dickie Do & The Don'ts' "Teardrops Will Fall" (recast as Nashville pop) and a modern number from Lucinda Williams, "Lafayette", given a mannered Cajun flavour. In between are a Fairport Convention-style "Diamond Joe", a jaunty "Down In The Bottom", a gospel treatment of "John the Revelator" and a stilted"End of the World". The most pleasant surprise is Mellencamp's way with "Baltimore Oriole", a Hoagy Carmichael song done à la Tom Waits. But it's hard to fathom why he chose the project in the first place: the only time Mellencamp brings a more contemporary perspective is when he adds a more germane, modern political edge to "To Washington", which serves as a reluctant indictment of the Bush/Florida/Iraq debacle. But only just.