John Mellencamp: The Lonesome Jubilee

The Songs:

  1. Paper In Fire
  2. Down And Out In Paradise
  3. Check It Out
  4. The Real Life
  5. Cherry Bomb
  6. We Are The People
  7. Empty Hands
  8. Hard Times For An Honest Man
  9. Hotdogs And Hamburgers
  10. Rooty Toot Toot
  11. Blues From The Front Porch (Bonus Track)


  • John Mellencamp – vocal, guitar
  • John Cascella – keyboards, accordion, saxophone
  • Larry Crane – guitars, mandolin, banjo, harmonica, backing vocals
  • Mike Wanchic – guitars, dobro, banjo, dulcimer, backing vocals
  • Lisa Germano – fiddle
  • Toby Myers – bass, banjo, backing vocals
  • Kenny Aronoff – drums, percussion, backing vocals
  • Pat Peterson – percussion, backing vocals
  • Crystal Taliefero – backing vocals

After a series of successful albums and hit singles, “John Cougar” had enough artistic and celebrity clout to use his own name on his records and stop the comparisons as the “poor man’s Bruce Springsteen”. Coming of the blockbuster release of Scarecrow in 1985, he began working on his next album in the fall of 1986, which would turn into The Lonesome Jubilee. Recording was done at his home studio in Indiana. As Mellencamp stated in a 1987 interview:

“For the first time ever, we talked about the record before we started. Now, in the past, it was always ‘Let’s make it up as we go along’ – and we did make some of The Lonesome Jubilee up as we went along. But we had a very clear idea of what we wanted it to sound like, even before it was written, right through to the day it was mastered.”

The album’s musical vibe was a departure from the more mainstream rock that Mellencamp was known for previously. It had a more roots country and folk feel to it, with the inclusion of fiddle, accordion, and other traditional folk instruments. As a 2007 article in Vanity Fair stated:

The Lonesome Jubilee was the album in which Mellencamp defined his now signature sound: a rousing, crystalline mix of acoustic and electric guitars, Appalachian fiddle, and gospel-style backing vocals, anchored by a crisp, bare-knuckle drumbeat and completed by his own velveteen rasp.”

The Lonesome Jubilee became one of Mellencamp’s best-selling albums. It landed 6 singles in the Top 10 on Billboard’s charts and created the artistic template that he would use in his career from this point forward. It remains one of his best works. (Buy it here.)

Suggested Reading:

John Mellencamp. Paintings And Reflections.

Suggested Viewing:

Falling From Grace. (Semi-autobiographical film directed by and starring John Mellencamp.)