Ingram Hill

The Saint

January 19, 2011

ASBURY PARK, NJ—Ingram Hill is a group from Memphis, Tennessee. And while corn bread images of Elvis and Beale Street blues come to mind, nothing could be further from their musical reality.

Combining strong, addictive songwriting skills and top-shelf talent, Ingram Hill has managed to keep their evident focus (love of music) humming for over a decade while making some pretty nice career moves along their journey.

In 2002, the band released an EP, Until Now, on Traveler Records, an independent label that had Emerson Hart, (Tonic) producing five of the tracks. As a result of the band’s touring efforts with bands such as Hootie & The Blowfish, over 10,000 copies of Until Now were sold throughout the country. Not a bad start for an independent group that did all the heavy lifting on their own.

Ingram Hill signed up with Hollywood Records around 2004 and released their first full-length major release, June’s Picture Show in 2004. Produced by Rick Beato (Charlie Mars, Shinedown) this release boasted two Billboard Top 25-charting Hot AC radio hits “Will I Ever Make It Home” and “Almost Perfect.”

It also marked the start of pitfalls. Says singer Justin Moore about the experience of working with a major label, as well as the vindication of their current situation, “Our experience with a label was that there were a lot of cooks in the kitchen. And that can just make for a diluted record. There are just so many opinions and it takes forever. So, this time it was left to us and Rick.” And when they say this time, they’re talking about their brand new disk titled, Look Your Best (Rock Ridge Music).

Their show at The Saint was a good demonstration of just why these Tennessee boys continue to thrive. They went through 17 songs with ease, including selections from Look Your Best and other tunes from past releases. And while they’ve added a couple of players to the live line-up (Chris Allen on guitar and Rob Coleman on drums) Ingram Hill is bare bones dynamic, and anchored in top 40/AOR tradition.

Songs like “Lady Grey” pops with American band grit steered by the stable phrasing of singer Justin Moore. Moore’s sensibility of getting to the hooks while maintaining an identity is right to a fault. Other notable songs such as “Chicago” boast big bashed intro chords, hiccupped off time drums and candy good, if somewhat predictable choruses.

“Impossible Dream” sprayed country coated funk rock at the crowd. Bouncy and chorus-strong, it reminded me of what would happen if the Spin Doctors crashed into Red Wanting Blue. Harmonic octave guitars in the bridge were key for setting up the theme. Big build ups and back into addictive choruses. Other mentionables were “Broken” and the hillbilly tinged four on the floor of “Burnout.”

Ingram Hill has figured out a good, steady pace for what they do and they are staying with the program that makes sense. And while some might be vindicated when saying that these guys are pushing something that has already been done, it doesn’t really matter.

When watching Ingram Hill at The Saint it was evident that this band enjoys what they do and they do it well. Right now touring is extensive and CD sales remain strong, and while that alone makes most bands worth a glance, it’s the bands traditional direction and balls out stance that lures even the coolest of hipsters out of their folkie caves and into the Memphis steeped style of Ingram Hill. More info at rockridgemusic.com/ingramhill

Exotic Pet

The Brighton Bar Reunion

January 22, 2011

LONG BRANCH, NJ—I remember those heady days right before Nirvana came in and shut the whole glam rock business down for good. Punk and new wavers had finally come to terms (except for Jacko) with the heavy sell out sounds of Balaam And The Angel, Billy Idol and Poison, abandoning their Capezios and Steinbergers for pointy Jackson axes, silver-toed cowboy boots, Marshall half-stacks and Steve Stevens make-up kits. It was a celebration of musical excess and the relief of not having to be so dark and serious thrived. But then, just when everyone was creaking around the neighborhood in black leather pants and dusters, the end came.

Not unlike when the dinosaurs were pleasantly grazing and eating each other on a nice summer day and all of a sudden—WHAM! Extinction just erased them. That’s what happened to the industry in the early ‘90s. When label fat cats thought they could do no wrong, some flannel shirted, longhaired David came along and slew the mighty Goliath. Done.

But amidst that big hair and motorcycle boots, there was real music from some interesting local bands. One such group was Exotic Pet. No, the name didn’t come from the local turtle and Iguana store, but from how the band opened for Belle Skye who happened to have a song called “Exotic Pet” which was written about singer Elena’s relationship with Exotic Pet singer Drew. Being like a “pet,” Drew was, in other words, too expensive to keep. Fitting for a time period where men ran around in long, glittery coats and top hats like some demented Willy Wonka.

The band managed a few feathers in their cap along their way such as drummer John Kelsey getting an endorsement deal from Meinl Cymbals and Exotic Pet going to perform at NAMM in 1995. They played shows with all the big boys of the time including Love/Hate, T.M. Stevens, Billy Duffy (Vent) and locally with Mars Needs Women, Dog and Kid With Man Head.

Music wise, they released a few projects such as Love Thing, which appeared on the Imperative Collection Vol. 1 in 1993 and they also released an independent CD, Bleed, in the Spring of 1994. By 1996 the band had written and recorded enough material for a second CD release but were caught up in the age-old “creative differences” vacuum and, like many great bands from this time period, they faded quietly into obscurity with Mike Black going on to DJ for 106.3 FM and do his own solo thing as well as Mitch Wilson having a successful stint with hard rock pirates Hat Trick Of Misery.

2011 Exotic Pet was tight and entertaining, Songs were strong and the ‘80s antics of Drew (sunglasses never left his face) worked well with the punk pogoing of Mike Black and the metal posturing of Mitch Wilson.

Songs like, their first recording, “Bitch,” rolled out of the Brighton sound system like something from Iggy And The Stooges. Screams of encouragement from the crowd between blitzkriegs of Marshall bomb runs and double bass drums made the event a fun success. “Bleed,” “Love Thing” and “Laff Inn,” were some other early numbers that got the crowd humming.

Exotic Pet churned out a set of really great rock and roll music in the vein of the Smithereens or The Godfathers. I can only hope that they’ll come back to drop some more good memories on the Brighton stage. Greg Macolino has been nurturing and supporting the restorations of the real sounds of the Jersey shore for some time now. Bringing back all the bands from the ‘80s that honed the sounds of bands out there today and I salute him as well as saying great job from past, present and future Exotic Pet. Exotic Pet currently is: Drew (vocals), Mitch Wilson (guitar), John Kelsey (drums), Mike Black (bass) and Bob O’Hara (lead guitar).

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