Jack Ingram,
Live at Billy Bob's Texas
(Smith, 2003)

Jack Ingram is a well-kept secret, especially once you get out of his home state of Texas. This is a shame, because he delivers a blend of country and rock not unlike that of Steve Earle, who co-produced Ingram's album Livin' or Dyin'. Live at Billy Bob's Texas is Ingram's second live album; he has released several studio albums as well. These albums mix Ingram's songwriting with covers of country classics.

Ingram's sound on this CD is a little more raw-voiced and rock-oriented than on his previous live album, Live at Adair's, but there's still plenty of honky-tonk in the music. At times, he approaches Springsteen territory, but he is essentially a hard-rocking alt-country singer. Ingram's live albums share two songs, the omnipresent "Flutter" (which appears on several of Ingram's albums) and the wonderful "Attitude and Driving." Ingram is backed up by his Beat Up Ford Band (named for one of his best-known songs); the lineup is Jens Pinkernell (electric guitar), Chris Masterson (electric and mando guitars), Robert Kearns (bass and backing vocals), Pete Coatney (drums) and Bukka Allen (organ and piano).

Ingram mixes songs about hard-working people trying to get by with songs about good times and misadventures in dance halls. He often brings a philosophical bent to his subjects; "Life's mostly attitude and driving," he muses in the song of the same name, as he sings about the people he passes along the road and the music he plays on the car stereo. "Beat Up Ford" encourages a young man to live his life like a mythical cowboy. "We're All in This Together" is a good-natured anthem to tolerance.

In the department of matters of the heart, he dedicates "She Don't Love You" to a friend and his girlfriend, then follows with "another love song," "Nothing to Gain." "Flutter" appears so often in Ingram's discography because it's a delightful song of infatuation, and you can't help enjoying it even as you shake your head because he put it on yet another album. Lovers of country standards will appreciate the inclusion of "Dim Lights, Thick Smoke (and Loud, Loud Music)" and "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?"

Live at Billy Bob's Texas is a generous helping of alt-country honky-tonk music from one of the genre's great talents. If you like good Texas songwriters, treat yourself to this one.

- Rambles
written by Jennifer Hanson
published 5 June 2004

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