Imagine my excitement when I heard that one of my favorite alternative rock bands, Ingram Hill, was coming out with a new album. Imagine my skepticism when I saw that the album was classified as “country”—the last stop before possible musical oblivion for many pop and rock artists. It’s hard to conceive of lead singer Justin Moore’s edgy, raspy, rock voice blending with the twang of a banjo, and yet . . . the fellas did it, and they did it well.
Ingram Hill, which consists of Justin Moore (guitar and lead vocals), Phil Bogard (guitar), and Zach Kirk (bass and vocals), financed its new self-titled album primarily through the members’ own savings and fan donations. The band members also self-produced, recorded, mixed, and wrote most of the album’s eleven songs.
The band has typically placed itself in the alternative rock genre, especially with its June’s Picture Show’s “Will I Ever Make it Home” and Cold in California’s “Why Don’t You” (which is given a nod in the new album’s “Behind My Guitar”). Instead of trying to recreate the sounds of past work, however, Ingram Hill embraces the southern musical style and culture these Tennessee boys know and love.
Much of Ingram Hill contains songs praising the American south. With lyrics that invoke images of a “pretty sundress” and a “Texas sky,” the band honors symbols of the southland, yet avoids the clichéd images of “good ol’ boys” square dancing and spitting the occasional “tobacky” while they down moonshine. Ingram Hill’s most celebratory southern song is undoubtedly “Good Ol’ Dixie,” in which the band gives a shout out to Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee and invokes “Alabama, Mississippi pride.”
Ingram Hill also uses traditional country instruments, such as the banjo and steel guitar, in songs like “Behind My Guitar” and “Good Ol’ Dixie.” The new instrumental additions may call attention to the southern edge of Moore’s rock voice, but Moore smartly keeps the sound of his signature voice unchanged. Country-esque guitar licks in “Mainline Train” (which has a very “Sweet Home Alabama” guitar run) and “Those Three Words” continue to announce that Ingram Hill wants to be, and now is, country rock.
The band, thankfully, does not completely break with its alternative rock tradition. “Mainline Train” and “Yellow House” still feature the guitar sustain and heavy drums of many of the band’s past albums. In truth, the album mixes alternative rock, country, and blues. R&B even makes a debut in “Those Three Words,” particularly in the bass line which gives the song a nice grooving funk.
If there is any “throwaway” song on this album, it would be “Oh My,” which features a light-hearted narrative encompassed in a southern rock and country blues framework. The song effectively showcases Ingram Hill’s instrumental talent, particularly regarding the guitar. However, “Oh My” comes off as a song that was fun for the band to create rather than as a song that features Ingram Hill’s winning formula—meaningful lyrics and melodic tunes. Still, for the rest of the songs, Ingram Hill continues in its wordsmith tradition and uses intelligent and catchy lyrics, such as in “Those Three Words” with lines like “Everyday is brighter when you walk in the room/ you’re like a nice cool breeze in the middle of June” and “rehearsing every cliché I know/ even make up some of my own.”
Although classified as “country,” Ingram Hill is an amalgamation of the band’s past alternative rock and its current blues, R&B, and country influences. As the country genre is continually expanding, it is unsurprising that the Tennessee trio has found a new niche. For now, Ingram Hill continues to put out quality music that remains unique and never has, as the band puts it in “Behind My Guitar,” the “same old stories, same clichés.”