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Jack Ingram

Big Dreams & High Hopes – 2009 (Big Machine)

Reviewed by Jessica Phillips

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CDs by Jack Ingram

Jack Ingram spent much of the '90s polishing his star in the organic, stripped-down Texas music scene before leaving it behind for the allure (and chance for a larger career) that comes with Nashville's pop-country sound. Ingram's music has become sleeker, with drums and electric guitar thrown to the forefront in true Nashville style, but even that can't hide his slightly rugged vocals.

A bitter, darker version of honky-tonk rocker Barbie Doll was released on his 1999 album "Hey You." This time around, he and guest Dierks Bentley dress up this 'doll' with some rousing background singers, including Jedd Hughes, Little Big Town and James Otto.

Similar to Measure of a Man off 2007's "This is It" album, That's a Man is a half-sung/half-spoken nod to those men fighting to protect their families and country-men who become an inspiration to those around them in the process. Of course, the process of becoming a better man isn't easy, and it sounds as if the poetic, intimate Not Giving Up on Me is Ingram's ode to the woman who stuck with him through the failures and successes.

While his single, Barefoot and Crazy, and other songs like Free and Man In Your Life seem ripe for radio airplay (as in, bland and with enough cliches to fit in with many songs being pumped onto radio right now), he does include the elegant Seeing Stars, with angelic harmonies by Patty Griffin, which offers the gorgeous lyric "wishing on stars/only when you see them/ is like askin' God for help/only when you need Him."

Big Dreams and High Hopes rises above being another obligatory self-congratulations by a rising artist thanks to its graceful lyrics and sparse guitar, and the solemn air in Ingram's voice.

Ingram tries to fill his big dreams by riding Nashville pop-country hit machine while still appeasing his long-time Texas fans' high hopes with a stripped down gem or two on this album, but he never fully succeeds at fulfilling either.