CD Review: Ingram Hill “Blue Room Afternoon”

Fresh off the heels of last year’s magnificent record, “Look Your Best” (see review here ), Memphis pop rock stars Ingram Hill are back with acoustic renditions of some of their finest work. The collection is called Blue Room Afternoon and will be available exclusively on iTUNES June 21, 2011, courtesy of Rock Ridge Music. The new record, which consists of a dozen tunes, was produced by lead vocalist/guitarist Justin Moore with the goal to have that “living room concert” feel. The set is more expansive than their unplugged EP from 2005 (also on iTUNES).

“We had always discussed releasing an acoustic album,” says Moore, “but for whatever reason had never done it. It was kind of strange recording older songs all over again, but it was fun to be able to approach them differently, and try a few new things with them, which totally gave a fresh feel to songs we’ve played thousands of times. It’s almost a look into what songs sound like when we first wrote them, without all the bells and whistles of a full production record. We’re excited about the album, and we can’t wait for our fans to hear our songs in a fashion that is not normally available to them.”

I usually approach these types of records with mixed feelings of apprehension and excitement, but with a band loaded to the gills with talent like Ingram Hill, I had few reservations. Stripping these tracks down to their bare bones only serves to validate that the songwriting skill and musicianship in this trio far exceeds normal expectations for your average pop rock band. Blue Room Afternoon provides the perfect backdrop for chilling out, with ringing acoustic guitars swirling about well crafted melodies and harmonies.

Things couldn’t get off to a better start than with a long time fan favorite, “Will I Ever Make It Home”, which is quickly followed by the hot lead off track from their latest studio effort “Look Your Best”. Additional tracks from “Look Your Best” included in this set are “Lady Grey”, “Hey Girl”, and “Miss Kennedy”. “L.A. Crazy” is also here, which is nice as it previously was only available as a bonus track on iTUNES. Dipping deeper into their back catalogue, the band treats us to acoustic arrangements of older gems like “Almost Perfect”, “Never Be The Same”, and “On My Way” (all from “June’s Picture Show”). Even deeper into their past is the biting track “The Day Your Luck Runs Out” from 2002’s “Until Now”. Some pleasant surprises include the hard to find “Magnolia Me”, a beautifully sparse track heard at some of their live shows. There is a glaring absence of songs from the excellent “Cold In California” and their Why The Wait EP – it would have been cool to hear a couple tracks from these notable releases as well. I also would have loved to hear an acoustic rendition of their cover of Boston’sMore Than A Feeling”, which graced the Herbie: Fully Loaded soundtrack. It is hard to pick favorites, but if I were forced to choose they’d be “Will I Ever Make It Home”, “Hey Girl”, and “Lady Grey”.

Fast or slow, nearly every one of these songs lends themselves well to the acoustic format. Blue Room Afternoon will surely please fans of the band and hopefully win them some new recruits as well.

Ingram Hill – Official site.