John Mellencamp, "Life Death Live and Freedom"

Recorded live in 2008, "Life Death Live and Freedom" is a companion piece to John Mellencamp's acclaimed "Life Death Love and Freedom." That said, "Live" stands on its own. The eight-song album is an honest-to-goodness testament to Mellencamp's longevity, artistry and ability to connect with his audience. When "Live" was being recorded, the tunes were new to the audience, which responds enthusiastically nonetheless. "Longest Days," with its stripped-down acoustic guitar and trademark Mellencamp growl, is raw and real. In fact, the album wasn't overdubbed or tweaked in any way-something exceedingly rare these days when it comes to so-called "live" sets. But we wouldn't expect any less from Mellencamp. Other highlights include the driving "If I Die Sudden," "Troubled Land," "Don't Need This Body" and "Young Without Lovers," which turns into a crowd singalong.