Don't blame Jack Ingram for growing up in Houston and going to college in Dallas at roughly the same time as the post-Lyle Lovett gang. He's smarter and tougher than his peers -- and he rocks. All but abandoning the ersatz honky-tonk of his first five records, Ingram's latest release, Electric, combines Stonesy guitar grind with more than a few moments of scathing self-criticism, not to mention a dive or two into Tom Waitsian Salvation Army Band jive. Ingram is no Townes, nor does he pretend to be. Somewhere between Steve Earle's working-class lyricism and John Mellencamp's small-town romanticism, Ingram's songwriting gives an equally fierce glance to anthemic hopefulness and darker matters of the heart. His finest song, "You Never Leave," describes a failing relationship held together by the singer's certainty that only he could end it. With a final, classic country twist of the screw, his lover ultimately abandons him, but the singer was still right -- her memory remains and will never leave. His records have always been strong, if little known outside of Texas; on stage, though, Ingram's charm and talent are full-blown and undeniable.
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