Jack Ingram is a country music veteran, but you may not have heard as much from him over the last several years. After leaving Big Machine (yes, that label) in 2008, he has returned to his roots with a fresh start at Rounder. Focusing on songwriting he can truly be proud to both put his name on and put his voice to, Ingram has most definitely “still got it”. Midnight Motel may sound dark, but it is actually some of Ingram’s brightest work.
Opening track “Old Motel” is catchy and melodic, though it tells the story of a place that’s seen too many down-on-their-luck folks just passing through; a place where “memories, like cigarettes/Burn holes right through the sheets.” The song’s driving rhythm will scoop you up and take you on the journey through all the stories this motel holds. Ingram is an expert storyteller himself. He knows how to capture those little details that paint a devastating picture.
There’s a warmth and intimacy to parts of Midnight Motel, like Ingram recorded it in one take, and this track even features background chatter between him and his bandmates. Still, though, it is a polished record with clean production that highlights Ingram’s easy, laid back vocals and often epic arrangements. “It’s Always Gonna Rain” builds to a symphonic climax, as does the gorgeous “Nothing to Fix”. “Don’t write a song/That you wouldn’t sing,” he says on the latter. A crucial lesson he’s picked up along the way, no doubt, and something he clearly takes to heart on Motel.
Ingram sure has a knack for drinking songs, and there are a handful here, including the Petty-esque rock and roll of “I’m Drinking Through It” and the heartsick ballad about giving up, “I Feel Like Drinking Tonight”. Ingram is such an intimidating master of verse in both of these songs, he may drive you to start drinking right along with him.