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Jack Ingram

Midnight Motel – 2016 (Rounder)

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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CDs by Jack Ingram

Jack Ingram tells a crazy story about the inspiration for "Blaine's Ferris Wheel" at the end of another song, "I Feel Like Drinking Tonight." It's one of a few places where Ingram can be heard just talking. In part, this story concerns a time when Ingram was asked to open for the late Merle Haggard. But as great a storyteller Ingram is, he's even a better songwriter and "I Feel Like Drinking Tonight" ranks right up there with all those great Haggard drinking songs. It would fit right into a playlist that also included "I Think I'll Just Stay Here and Drink" and "Swinging Doors." This is just one of the many wonderful characteristics built into "Midnight Motel," an amazingly good country album, which may just be Ingram's best.

Bad drinking songs only explore drinking; great drinking songs, however, delve into motivations behind drinking as well, and with "I Feel Like Drinking Tonight," Ingram chooses to drink because it offers a simple, false solution to facing a complicated world. It's as though he's long past trying to make sense of the planet and its endless contradictions. He admits, "I'm tired of dying just to prove life's worth living, and everything's gonna work out just fine."

Ingram also includes a truly endearing love song. "Champion of the World" is about a woman that loves a seemingly unlovable man. One of this guy's many character flaws is that he's mechanically challenged. "I wouldn't know a spark plug from the Duke of Earl" is how he describes his inability to help a friend restart a car. "Daddy always told me I throw a baseball like a girl/But when my baby holds me I'm the champion of the world," is one more truly great line from this touching song.

"Midnight Motel" is a funny, smart and heartfelt country album. Ingram's acoustic guitar playing is prominent throughout, as though he didn't want to over complicate these songs. These songs are strong, all on their own. "Midnight Motel" just gets better the more you listen to it and while you peel off each descending layer.