John Mellencamp Freedom's Road

The one-time "American fool” has gotten a lot wiser over the years, devoting himself to preserving his beloved heartland through his music, as most of his original fan base has long since forgotten about him in the face of more lucrative pursuits. While Mellencamp’s last release, 2003’s Trouble No More, was a solid collection of blues and country covers, it was virtually ignored. Sensing an opportunity to add his voice to the chorus trying to figure out what the hell’s wrong with America today, he’s given us Freedom’s Road, which isn’t so much a diatribe against either side but a reaffirmation of what he believes to be the country’s core values. Thus we have "Our Country” (ironically snapped up quickly for a car ad), "The Americans,” "Jim Crow” (featuring Joan Baez) and the title track. It’s hard to argue with Mellencamp’s conviction, especially when his band sounds as tough as it always has. Yet, for anyone outside of America, it’s hard to truly connect with Mellencamp’s state of the union address based on what we see on the news every night. Long-time fans will surely appreciate this rekindling of the home fires that burned throughout the ’80s but unless some major changes happen soon, the optimism displayed on Freedom’s Road will ring hollow, like the fading echoes of the American dream that inspired it. (Universal)