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The Earliest Bird: Top New Recorded Release 1-21-22 – 1-27-22, John Mellencamp’s “Strictly One Eyed Jack” Reviewed

What on earth is John Mellencamp’s problem? The miserable wretch. He’s got millions in the bank, he has his movie star girlfriend, and he has got Bruce Springsteen on three tracks.Johnny has a fanbase large enough to tour whenever Covid lets him, he’s 70 and will die sooner than later, and, agreed, that is a major bummer though death levels all paying fields with a devastating finality so he’s not being singled out. And yet here is another album filled with acoustic Americana, bad blues, sometimes good melodies, and a whole lotta whining. Strictly One Eyed Jack (and Diane one wonders) is far from great, yet it isn’t entirely terrible either. Following up on 2021’s live album from the 2019 tour where yet again he mostly performed Uh-Huh, Scarecrow, and The Lonesome Jubilee (with “Jack And Diane” because it’s “Jack And Diane”) -he should have rolled out the perfect pop of “Hurt So Good”) and whatever album he’s flogging; business as usual for the last forty yearsish, this is another Mellencamp joint waiting to expire and yet it has its moments.

That is what we find with Mellencamp, it’s what you’ll find among his 29 long players, it’s what made albums as similar as 96’s ironic Mr. Happy Go Lucky or 2014’s truth in advertising Plainspoken – both of which are worth skipping through the tuneless whines and bizarre and self-serving proletariat bullshit, to reach the occasional knockout. The same is true of Strictly One Eyed Jack, while all three songs with the Boss are no good, the (nearly) title track “Simply One Eyed Jack” is one of his best moments in the 21st century, it sounds a little like Bruce circa The Ghost Of Tom Joad, and the inclusion of the Gypsy King, Salome, and John The Baptist is Dylan 10, but the accordion fills it with life and the tune is indelible even if the singing ain’t. It’s followed by the positive “End Of The Rainbow” and gives him two moments back to back you can return to. But if those two of keepers, please miss opener “I Never Talk To Strangers” -which is true, if you’re a waitress he’s just snapped his fingers at. The first half the album is a bit of a bummer, six songs has one keeper, the second half has three.

The album cover was painted by Mellencamp and while artists are definitive of the moist culturally exalted he still has a major problem that neither Bruce nor Dylan have, he is seen as a loud mouth hypocrite. It might be true, but he is a loud mouth hypocrite who dropped four good songs and an excellent self-portrait

Grade: B-

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