Out today is Sad Clowns & Hillbillies, John Mellencamp's latest studio album and 23rd overall.
The rootsy set features his frequent touring partner Carlene Carter on five songs, as well as a duet with country singer Martina McBride and a version of Woody Guthrie's unrecorded "My Soul's Got Wings," for which Mellencamp wrote the music to accompany the lyrics.
Mellencamp tells us that more than anything these days he enjoys the challenge and adventure of songwriting:
"When you're a songwriter your head is open to be channeled...A lot of times I write songs and I don't even know what...they’re about 'cause they're not really coming to me -- at least I didn't set down to say, 'OK, I’m gonna write a song called 'The Isolation Of Mister'...because the song came to me. I couldn't write it down fast enough...After this many years of making records I start getting knocks on the door and I either choose to answer them or I don't."
Mellencamp kicks off a North American tour to support the album on June 5 in Greenwood Village, Colo., with dates booked into early September.
Gary Graff is an award-winning music journalist who not only covers music but has written books on Bob Seger, Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen.