John Mellencamp has had so many hit songs that people often forget what a soulful, powerful singer/songwriter he is. Whether or not there’s any gold in his latest album, No Better Than This is an intensely beautiful blues record that showcases Mellencamp’s passionate voice, as a singer and writer, in all its glory. This is the artist’s second project with T Bone Burnett (they also made Life, Death, Love and Freedom last year), and the production definitely has the Grammy- and Oscar-winning musician/producer’s stamp all over it. Arrangements bend old-time sounds in all the right ways, and somehow leave loads of air around each instrument and every vocal line so that each part shines sonically, even though these recordings were reportedly captured live to analog with the use of an RCA 77 or RCA 44 mic. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the album features guitar work by Andy York and Marc Ribot, and the rhythm section of bassist David Roe and drummer Jay Bellerose. When great musicians take this kind of stripped-down approach, beautiful things happen.
Producer: T Bone Burnett. Engineers: Paul Mahern, Mike Piersante. Recorded at: Sun Studios (Memphis), First African Baptist Church (Savannah, GA), Room 414 of the Gunter Hotel (San Antonio, TX). Mastering: Gavin Lurssen/Lurssen Mastering (Hollywood).