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OPINION: Going Nashville: Why I still respect Jack Ingram
by Steve Circeo
Soap BoxA few weeks ago, I was listening to my favorite XM station, X Country. The mix on that station is great, with a whole lot of TXRD music, like Brandon Jenkins, Reckless Kelly, Nathan Hamilton, Cross Canadian Ragweed, Jackson Parten … you know, the good stuff!

So when I heard the station spinning “Lips of an Angel,” a pop song that, due to circumstances beyond my control, is all too familiar to me, I quickly looked at the radio (somewhat accusingly, I think) to see who was responsible for this flagrant violation of good taste.

What I saw floored me. The song was being sung by none other than Jack Ingram. The Jack Ingram. I felt a sickness in my gut, and I was very happy that I hadn’t eaten recently.

I calmed down and tried to judge the song more objectively, listening for any vestige of the old beat-upford Jack. But there was none to be found. His voice didn’t even sound right.

Needing to blow off some steam, I launched into a tirade about how Nashville corrupts our great Texas artists. It was a little weird, because there was no one there to listen to this diatribe, but I ranted anyway.

Not satisfied with the fact that no one was hearing what I was going on about, I considered visiting and writing a review in the Jack Ingram section that would excoriate that Hinder cover, and maybe even flay Jack for “going Nashville.”

And then I thought about it.

First, “Nashville” does not equal “bad music.” Jack has been recording in Nashville for years, and he’s released some damn fine albums, both independent and major label. So have many other musicians.

Second, music is Jack’s business. For good or bad, in order for country music artists to reach the pinnacle of their chosen profession, they gotta go mainstream. So Jack Ingram wants to be successful at his job. Why should I get on his case for that?

You could argue that, while my points above are solid, that’s no reason for Jack to cover a piece of pop schmaltz like “Lips of an Angel.”

And you’d be wrong.

Let’s take the venom out of the argument and step outside the country music industry. How many highly respected actors, have gone for the big payday? Countless. Johnny Depp did Pirates of the Caribbean. Robert De Niro did Rocky and Bullwinkle. Michael Caine and Christopher Walken do pretty much anything that comes their way. We recognize and accept such artistic missteps as a way for these guys to generate some cash to fund their more creative endeavors.

So Jack Ingram has to cover Hinder to finally get some major airplay. Not a problem. In our society the artistically best music, writing, and films are generally not honored with large paydays. In order for artists to make the big bucks, they have to appeal to the mainstream consumer.

That’s all Jack has done by recording “Lips of an Angel.” Is he less of an artist for it? No, although it may seem so temporarily, because art often takes a backseat to the green stuff that runs our world. Why do you think Guy Clark did TV commercials for Taco Cabana? Even artists need to get paid.

By the way, Jack’s new record, This Is It, is really pretty darn good, so think of it this way: If just one person who buys it for “Lips of an Angel” gets turned on to the good stuff, then the world will be a better place.

Keep on keepin’ on, Jack. The Texas country music scene wouldn’t be the same without you, and, for that, you still have my respect and admiration. One crummy Hinder cover can’t take that away.

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