John Mel­len­camp with Car­lene Carter and Em­my­lou Har­ris

Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition - Showtime - Palm Beach - - MUSIC -

Where: Mizner Park Am­phithe­ater, 590 Plaza Real, in Boca Ra­ton When: 7 p.m. Sun­day Cost: Tick­ets cost $39.50-$125 Con­tact: 561-750-1668 or go to MyBoca.us. tell you that’s not true. It was ac­tu­ally this other [ jerk] at the record com­pany that got fur­ni­ture tossed at him!’ ” Lip­man writes via email. “Ever since that first en­counter, I fig­ured it was in my best in­ter­est to sell as many records as pos­si­ble, and don’t get hit with a chair.”

Mel­len­camp and Carter met a few years ago when Carter sang “Sugar Hill Moun­tain” on the Mel­len­camp-penned sound­track for “Ithaca,” the di­rec­to­rial de­but by his then-girl­friend, Meg Ryan. Mel­len­camp had been friendly with Carter’s mother, June Carter Cash, and her step­fa­ther, Johnny Cash. The pair toured to­gether in 2015 and formed an easy al­liance, bond­ing over their love of Amer­i­can roots mu­sic.

Mid­way through the tour, Mel­len­camp re­calls pass­ing Carter as he was walk­ing off the stage and say­ing, “‘I think we should make a gospel record to­gether,’ and she said, ‘Oh, that sounds good.’ That’s how it started.”

The plan for the gospel al­bum fell apart af­ter the pair couldn’t agree on the reper­toire, but there’s plenty of sin and sal­va­tion on “Sad Clowns & Hill­bil­lies,” which Mel­len­camp recorded at his Bel­mont Mall stu­dio out­side of Bloom­ing­ton.

“What Kind of Man Am I” — which, along with “You Are Blind,” orig­i­nally ap­peared in “Ghost Broth­ers of Dark­land County,” the mu­si­cal stage drama writ­ten by Mel­len­camp, Stephen King and T Bone Bur­nett — is a heavy lament that car­ries the same world-weary weight as Cash’s ver­sion of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt.” “Sad Clowns,” mean­while, is a tongue-in-cheek, cau­tion­ary tale, wav­ing off any woman who comes too close.

Sal­va­tion comes with the Carter- penned, re­demp­tion-filled “Da­m­as­cus Road” and “My Soul’s Got Wings,” a Woody Guthrie lyric that Mel­len­camp set to mu­sic.

Per­haps it’s his heart­land roots, but Mel­len­camp has al­ways ex­celled at sim­ple sto­ries rather than grand ges­tures through such hits as “Pink Houses,” “Pa­per in Fire” and “Small Town.” Carter says it’s a trait his song­writ­ing shares with the mu­sic made by her leg­endary an­ces­tors, the Carter Fam­ily.

“As com­pli­cated a per­son as [John] might be,” Carter says, “he does write re­ally catchy. But the con­tent is very real, and I won’t say heavy, but deeper than a lit­tle ditty.” In­sert “Jack & Diane” joke here.

On the clos­ing track, “Easy Tar­get,” Mel­len­camp turns to the big pic­ture, adopt­ing a Tom Wait­s­like growl as he sings about racial and eco­nomic in­equal­ity. But he re­sists the no­tion that the song is de­press­ing.

“There’s a dif­fer­ence be­tween down and ob­ser­va­tional,” he says. “A down record was ‘Ber­lin’ by Lou Reed.”

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