Mellencamp's eighth album was released six years into Reagan's presidency. Lonesome's downtrodden characters call for equality and justice, accentuated by instruments such as penny whistle and fiddle. Far from being gloomy, from Paper in Fire onwards this album is a rocker, a philosophical treatise and a singalong all in one.
Lonesome is more complete than John's previous best - Scarecrow - and it sets the high standard that nearly every subsequent album has met. Having said that, none of this later work, apart from Big Daddy, and only Scarecrow (the song) and Little Pink Houses before, create such identifiable and believable characters who share their personal histories in every song on the Lonesome Jubilee.
Despite the cries for help, hope, fairness and justice, the album leaves the listener optimistic. If you haven't heard the Lonesome Jubilee either buy the album now or borrow Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath from the library tomorrow.