Jump to Content

Welcome! You’re browsing the No Depression Archives

No Depression has been the foremost journalistic authority on roots music for well over a decade, publishing 75 issues from 1995 to 2008. No Depression ceased publishing magazines in 2008 and took to the web. We have made the contents of those issues accessible online via this extensive archive and also feature a robust community website with blogs, photos, videos, music, news, discussion and more.

Close This

Waxed - Record Review from Issue #46 July-Aug 2003

John Mellencamp

Trouble No More (Columbia)

John Mellencamp fought authority, authority usually won.

Still, Mellencamp was one of the few truly popular musical artists to protest George W. Bush’s appointment to the presidency and the (then) gathering clouds of war with Iraq. “To Washington”, a song Mellencamp made available for free download from his website earlier this year, is a recasting of a song done at various times by Charlie Poole, the Carter Family and Woody Guthrie. It’s the lone tune credited to Mellencamp on Trouble No More, the singer’s 21st album.

The other eleven cuts are covers of folk, blues, country, and rock ‘n’ roll songs that have shaped Mellencamp’s musical sensibilities, or that he has come to discover in recent times. As roots moves go, it’s a credible one, since he has long incorporated into his work stripped-down arrangements featuring fiddle, accordion and acoustic guitars, and lyrics addressing concerns of the common man.

Comparable in some ways to 1999′s Rough Harvest, on which Mellencamp rearranged some of his own songs and covered Bob Dylan, the Drifters, and Van Morrison, Trouble No More goes deeper into the history of popular music, and features songs written or popularized by the likes of Robert Johnson, Hoagy Carmichael and Son House. Though some of the tunes date back to the early part of the 20th century, they more accurately reflect America’s current climate of desperation, mistrust and betrayal than do the false portraits of the country drawn by Washington and much of the mainstream media.

Perhaps the best thing about the disc is that Mellencamp’s reach doesn’t exceed his grasp. Instead of attempting to present wholly “authentic”-sounding versions of songs such as Johnson’s “Stones In My Passway”, Carmichael’s “Baltimore Oriole”, Willie Dixon’s “Down In The Bottom”, and the traditional numbers “John The Revelator” and “Diamond Joe”, Mellencamp and his band — including slide guitarist Andy York, who performs admirably throughout — remade the tunes in a contemporary context, though the lyrics still retain their full impact.

There are some nice surprises, too, including a plaintive version of the Skeeter Davis hit “The End Of The World”, and a rendition of the Dickie Do & the Don’ts tune “Teardrops Will Fall” that sounds of a piece with many other Mellencamp singles.

In many ways, Trouble No More represents what Mellencamp’s version of “heartland rock” was supposed to sound like in the first place.

Enjoy the ND archives? Consider making a donation with PayPal or send a check to:
No Depression, 460 Bush St., San Francisco, CA 94108


Did you enjoy this article? Start a discussion about it, or find out what others are saying in the No Depression Community forum.

Join the Discussion »

Find out what's going on in roots music. Share concert photos and videos, learn about new artists, blog about the music you love.

Join the No Depression Community »

Originally Featured in Issue #46 July-Aug 2003

Buy our history before it’s gone!

Each issue is artfully designed and packed full of great photos that you don‘t get online. Visit the No Depression store to own a piece of history.

Visit the No Depression Store »

From the Blogs

  • No Depression Is Getting a Facelift: A Note About What's Around the Bend
    Ever since we announced that No Depression had been acquired by FreshGrass back in March, we’ve heard from many of you with questions, concerns, and ideas about the future of this website and the community that gathers here. We created a forum topic at that time so we could organize these comments and refer to them frequently, which we have done as we’ve dev […]
  • Learning Songwriting at the Feet of Steve Earle
    Steve Earle has his eye on the history books. Not for himself, necessarily - though I doubt he’d object - but for his art form, “songwriting as literature.” With Camp Copperhead, Steve seemed to be trying to secure this form a place in history. “Four days of singing and songwriting,” the marketing materials promised. “Hard core.” I’m a non-professional songw […]
  • Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin I, II & III 2014 Remasters (Album Review)
    Has any music reviewer ever missed the mark more than John Mendelsohn in his 1969 Rolling Stone critique of Led Zeppelin’s scorching, finely honed debut? After calling the album self-indulgent, he labeled Jimmy Page “a very limited producer and a writer of weak, unimaginative songs” and dismissed Robert Plant’s “strained and unconvincing shouting.” The album […]
  • Shawn Amos - The Reverend Shawn Amos Tells It (Album Review)
    The only thing wrong with the six-song EP The Reverend Shawn Amos Tells It, is that there are only six songs. Like James Brown said, "let’s hit it, and quit," Amos gathered together what he calls a "Gutbucket power trio," of Chris Roberts (guitar),Don Medina (drums),and Ed Terrio (bass) then threw down the tracks old school -- live, with […]
  • New Country is Boring Me
    My early music education was in classical and jazz. Through orchestration classes, composition, Baroque theory, etc., I learned a lot of music rules. Some of them have stayed with me, even though I don’t write music on a regular basis. In jazz improv, never sit on the fourth scale degree. In orchestration, don’t cross your voices. In composition, never repea […]
  • Hook & Anchor - Self-titled (Album Review)
    Hook & Anchor are a new Portland, Ore.-based band with something of a pedigree. Bringing together Blind Pilot’s Kati Claborn, Luke Ydstie, and Ryan Dobrowski with veteran old time specialist Gabrielle Macrae (of the Macrae Sisters), and Erik Clampitt of Clampitt, Gaddis & Buck and Power of County, all of the individual members of the band… […]

Shop Amazon by clicking through this logo to support NoDepression.com. We get a percentage of every purchase you make!

Subscribe To the No Depression Newsletter

Subscribe to the No Depression Newsletter