You have to hand it to anybody for opening a record with a tune by the great Radney Foster. Jack Ingram does, and his 2007 issue, This Is It, certainly is. Produced by Jeremy Stover, Doug Lancio, and Ingram, the disc features 12 solid country-rockers along with videos for "Wherever You Are" and "Love You." Ingram started as a rough and rowdy Texas songwriter who had his eyes full of Steve Earle, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Townes Van Zandt, and Robert Earl Keen. At the age of 37, Ingram has grown immensely as a writer and as a performer -- he hasn't yet reached the lofty heights of his legendary forebears, but the winning is in the striving. The raw, rowdy bravado of his earlier records has given way to the more polished and sonically adventurous sound of a man who looks to the margins for hope and finds truths to be heeded in his greatest teachers: memories, bliss, and hardships. Check the Foster-penned "Measure of a Man," with its lithe ringing guitars and big percussive punch. It's the story of a kid who leaves home at 15: "I burned those wheels down the highway/I learned what I learned the hard way/Do the best you can do/Love many, trust few/Work hard for the money in your hands/That's the measure of a man/Anger burns, love cools it down/Pretty young woman turned my head around/The world through her eyes looks so different/She lives on faith/She looks for forgiveness...." The guitars bust out of the gate and the drums try to double-time the band as Ingram lets it all come down around him. But there are other places on the album where he looks at the small things to find big instructions -- e.g., in the pomp and circumstance of "Hold On" and the truly moving "Wherever You Are," which gives the pop and roll of Keith Urban a run for its money. This doesn't mean that Ingram doesn't have the swagger anymore; it's an inherent part of his musical persona, as evidenced in his own "Don't Want to Hurt Anymore" and the folksy jukebox pop Americana that is "All I Can Do." It's true that some of Ingram's earlier fans may balk at this new, far more accessible direction. The album is slick and savvy, but that's what needed to happen if he wanted to do more than play giant beer halls in Texas for rowdy fratboys -- if you don't grow, you die. This Is It is the work of a mature, tough, and inventive songwriter and performer. It should reach a larger and more diverse audience than anything he's recorded to date.
This Is It Review
by Thom Jurek
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