I’ve been a Jack Ingram fan for 15 years, he is one of the guys that brought me on board to the greatness that is Texas Music. I’ve talked about finding Pat Green and Cody Canada, and Jack Ingram’s music came blazing in about that same time. So when we learned that he’d be releasing “Midnight Motel” this summer I knew I’d have to write something. What exactly, hell if I know, but the point of this blog has always been about intersection points of this music with my life experiences. So here goes…
It’s been a couple of weeks since Jack graced us with his new album and I’ve listened to it several times. I’ve struggled with what to say about “Midnight Motel”, not because it’s bad – it’s good – but as he’s said in the press, this was a leap for him. But despite being so different it’s still Jack Ingram. Not to get all hippie-Oprah but every artist has an essence and you still know that “Midnight Motel” is him.
Since its release there have been a lots of articles and radio interviews on Jack, obviously to promote the record but there is also this undercurrent of “Welcome back Jack! You making a comeback? Where the hell have you been for seven years? We’ve missed you!” His answer to Texas Monthly was on point, so much so I had to Tweet it:
He’s right, he hasn’t gone anywhere. If you watch The Texas Music Scene, Jack is right there hosting the “Acoustic Motel” segment. Sure he hasn’t been putting out records but he’s still here. At this point the guy is a mainstay, just like REK, Ray Benson or Lyle Lovett.
If I had to use one word to describe “Midnight Motel”, it would be “mature”. That’s not a flashy adjective and it may sound boring, but there is a lot one can unpack from it. Things that are mature tend to be dependable, of substance, transparent, and of good quality. You get all of that in “Midnight Motel”, you get to see Jack where he is right now and to me that’s cool.
When you first discover an artist, you fall in love with a song. “One Thing” introduced me to Jack Ingram, then “Flutter”, then “I Won’t Go With Her”. I could rattle off several others but at some point that love transitions from the songs to the artist and from that point forward you’re on the ride with them. You see the ups and downs, you know when something worked for them or when it didn’t. I don’t know Jack personally (no pun intended) but I feel like I can relate to him. We are both in our 40’s, in the throws of raising a family and trying to do it the best that we can. Time to keep up with everything is virtually impossible and through all the interviews and articles, it’s clear he wanted to take his time and put out something that was him. If you like it, great, if you don’t then that’s cool too. He’s not trying to sell you anything because at this stage in life you know who you are and to try and sell you something else…I think our dear Mrs. Sweet Brown says it best “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”
“Midnight Motel” is introspective in its songwriting and intentionally simple in its execution. There aren’t fancy guitar riffs, complicated arrangements, or the playful boot burners that Jack is known for. It’s all about the writing. Immediately you notice the album is filled with lots of ambient studio noise and miscellaneous dialog. I love people stories and we get a really good one on “Blaine’s Ferris Wheel” (actually the story is on the preceding track “I Feel Like Drinking Tonight”). It’s a true tale about Blaine Martin, a San Angelo pub owner, and how he found ways of doing community service that would make PT Barnum proud. There are songs about love, relationships (“Old Motel”, “What’s A Boy To Do” and “Champion Of The World”) and of course drinking (“I Feel Like Drinking Tonight” and “I’m Drinking Through It”). The whole thing is stripped down, heavy on acoustic guitar and subtle everything else. Pretty cool.
Overall, I think “Nothing To Fix” embodies the spirit of this album – be you and put yourself out there. Some will love you, some won’t but there’s nothing to fix. The stuff that matters will stick and the rest will just fall away.
My favorite line on the album is in “Old Motel”:
Blurred line between progress and pain
My heart thinks that won’t change
Because your heart has eminent domain
Now is the 20 year old frat boy gonna like “Midnight Motel”? I probably would point the kid to some earlier Jack because this isn’t a party album. But for those of us already on this ride you’ll find “Midnight Model” to be like…chocolate cake… dependably good.
“Midnight Motel” is available on iTunes, Amazon and Spotify so have a listen.