John Mellencamp, No Better Than This [Rounder]

You’re John Mellencamp. You’ve got T-Bone Burnett producing your next record, a collection of classic American genres from rockabilly to old-school country and plenty in between.
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You’re John Mellencamp. You’ve got T-Bone Burnett producing your next record, a collection of classic American genres from rockabilly to old-school country and plenty in between. You want it to sound like it’s blasting out of a dusty old southern honky-tonk, so you’re going to record it with one microphone in a room, and those rooms will be Sun Studios in Memphis, a hotel room in San Antonio where Robert Johnson recorded, and a historic Baptist church in Savannah, Georgia. So who do you pick to play bass? Nashville’s Dave Roe (Johnny Cash, Dwight Yoakam, and many others), who delivers his bass lines with the solidity and conviction of someone used to making his instrument take up actual acoustic air and space, suiting the throwback production completely. And unlike many old records produced using the onemic recording method, you can hear both the plucked attack and the fundamental root-5 thump of Roe’s upright plain as day, anchoring the mix and driving the songs straight down a flat stretch of unknown road somewhere inland. There’s nothing fancy going on here down low; it’s just Roe’s meat-and-potatoes acoustic bass and perfect-pitch Americana.

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