Jack Ingram

We shouldn't blame Robert Earl Keen for the Pat Greens and Cory Morrows that, as he puts it, he has "spawned." Nor should we let their success taint our perceptions of his immensely more talented acolyte Jack Ingram. Ingram was the first college boy-turned-Keen Klone, but in the earnestness of his early and somewhat imitative work one could hear the potential for something greater and distinctly his own.

Consider that potential partially fulfilled. Ingram has developed into a credible artist and songwriter who brings honor rather than shame to the Texas singer-songwriter tradition. For Ingram, Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt are standard-bearers to aspire to, not just cool writers to name-check in songs that pale in comparison with those of the masters. Ingram fronts a tight country-rock combo that concentrates on delivering the spirit of his songs rather than overstating them with instrumental bombast. What's more, he has already shown himself to be a better singer than Keen.

In short, Ingram gets it. Instead of allowing some success to convince him to slack off, he has pledged to rededicate himself to improving his craft. As he worked his way up from his self-released CDs that set the pattern for the back-of-the-pickup-truck Green phenomenon, Ingram raised his own bar on each outing. He stands out as a beacon of intelligence and quality in an overheated "Texas music" movement, much of which is so embarrassingly trite it's enough to prompt the dedicated Lone Star music fan to start digging gangsta rap or electronica. Ingram delivers quality Texas music, and inevitably he will hit a creative groove that will land him in the songwriting pantheon. All too many of his contemporaries are headed -- deservedly -- to the dustbin.

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Rob Patterson