At this point, you probably want to smash your TV the second the Chevy truck ad featuring John Mellencamp's "Our Country" flashes onscreen. But although the loping, back porch-twang song is a tad pedantic (if not repetitive), it embodies the bleeding-heart, slice-of-life tales the Seymour, Indiana, native has been crafting for 30 years. Springsteen might receive more critical hosannas for his Americana vignettes, but Mellencamp's string of '80s hits ("Pink Houses," "Jack and Diane," "Small Town") and underrated recent work (the Simon & Garfunkel-like "Just Another Day" especially) make him deserve just as much respect. And unlike many modern small-town troubadours, his homespun folk is easy to appreciate — even if listeners don't hold any particular political or religious affiliation.
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