Jack Ingram may seem like a new artist to country listeners, but he’s been releasing albums since 1995. In 2005, he attached two new studio tracks to a live album, and they both hit the top twenty. “Wherever You Are” made it all the way to #1, while its follow-up “Love You” reached #12.
Big Machine is trying to build on the success he’s had at radio by including both of those songs again on his new studio album, This Is It. The excellent “Lips of an Angel”, which technically is the lead single, means that three of the first five songs on the album have already garnered wide exposure, with a fourth, “Measure of a Man”, hitting airwaves now. It’s a smart marketing tool for an emerging artist, but it makes the album feel more like a compilation at first.
It also doesn’t help that so many of the songs blend together. Ingram finds one groove and sticks with it on most of the album. It’s a mid-tempo, Mellencampy vibe. He’s a pretty good songwriter, but a fairly ordinary singer, so the album plods along in the middle. “Easy as 1, 2, 3”, “Ava Adele” and “The Great Divide” would’ve stood out more if the production of the record varied from song to song.
Towards the end, “Don’t Want to Hurt” jumps out immediately because of a cool percussion opening that sounds like tom-toms banging. Ingram mixes up his vocal to go along with the different sound, and it’s immediately more effective than the tracks that came before it. Album closer “All I Can Do” uses an echo effect to get more depth from his vocal, and it has a jangly acoustic arrangement that doesn’t feel weighed down like the earlier tracks. There’s even a joyous burst of horns as the song reaches its climax.
Ingram’s songwriting chops make the album worth a listen, but he needs to hook up with a more ambitious producer who will liven up his sound.