After selling 40 million albums and creating 22 Top-40 hits over a 35-year period, singer/songwriter John Mellencamp has decided to put his emphasis on studio recordings rather than live tours. This musical documentary directed by Kurt Markus and his son Ian focuses on the rock star's 2009 concert tour and the recording of his 21st studio album produced by veteran musician T Bone Burnett. The result is an engaging glimpse of Mellencamp's melodic repertoire of ballads and kick-out-the-jams songs.
The singer/songwriter is thrilled to be able record his album in the famous Sun Studio where Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Howlin' Wolf preceded them. Mellencamp and his musicians worked at night to avoid tour groups and used a single 1940s microphone. They concluded their sessions in San Antonio at the Sheraton Gunter Hotel in Suite 414 where Delta blues singer and guitarist Robert Johnson played in 1936. With these ancestral musical presences hovering around them, one can see why T Bone Burnett and Mellencamp give it all they've got without holding anything back.
The director Kurt Markus narrates this documentary. As a photographer, he notices a lot about their surroundings. He takes note that many small towns in the heartland of America have died. Boarded-up buildings and empty homes fill the screen and we realize how everything is changing. Mellencamp, meanwhile, laments what he calls the death of rock 'n' roll: "Oh, it's over, and it's not coming back." Time will tell about that. Meanwhile, we see the omnipresence of impermanence: nothing lasts forever, buildings and musical styles all fade away.