John Mellencamp is not the first musician to see his radio hits – including ’80s anthems “Jack and Diane,” “Small Town” and “Pink Houses” – oftentimes overshadow his overall impact as an artist and extensive contributions to his genre. Yes, the catchiest tunes of the onetime Johnny Cougar have helped him sell more than 40 million albums and earn entry into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008.
But over his 22 studio albums, the Indiana native has both illuminated the hardships of struggling farmers and revealed a heartland-steered songwriting depth not always absorbed in a mere four minutes on the radio.
Those looking for appropriate appreciation time will certainly find it at 7:30 p.m. Saturday when Mellencamp brings his Americana-steered “Plain Spoken Tour” (with Carlene Carter) to Shea’s Performing Art Center (646 Main St.).
The man who joined Willie Nelson and Neil Young to start Farm Aid is still spinning acoustic guitar-led tales of perseverance in the face of conflict, as exhibited on his critically acclaimed fall 2014 release, “Plain Spoken.” Remaining tickets (ranging from $39.50 to $119.50) are scarce, and can be sought via ticketmaster.com, at Shea’s box office or by phone at (800) 745-3000.
– Michael Farrell