Under the canopy of the Dakotan sky––an expanse so unsettlingly symmetrical to the blanket of land beneath as to muddle most horizon-gazers’ sense of depth and distance––there exists a pervasive and unique brand of lonesomeness. It wheezes in the sighing, dusted lungs of the farmer and flits in the flickering lashes of the gray-eyed truck stop waitress.
More concretely, this distinct, Northern lonesomeness weaves and winnows from the singing tongue of Jake Ingamar. Not since Hazlewood hitched his last lift out of Trouble has one songsmith so gently ladled the common man’s achings from the still waters of rural life. Largely conceived and recorded alone in a 1963 Greyhound bus parked permanently in the heart of a do-nothing town, Ingamar’s dual spit-shined EPs unspool threads of longing and loss. Companions in dimly-lit spirit and dusty title (‘Antiques,’ so named for the long-gestating songs within), these records are treasures of anguish ordinary and ornate.
As if answering Springsteen’s ‘Nebraska’ from a couple states above, Ingamar’s repertoire calls up a sorry cast of drifters, dreamers, and ne’er-do-wells to the minor-key Main Street of Miserytown. Their hearts soar with the heavenly heave of harmonica only to be dashed on rocky crashes of cymbals and tom drum skitters. They slink home in the long shadows of a pedal steel swoon and draw their curtains as the night fades away in fingerpicked woe. With every strum, swell, and call formed from his hands and throat alone, Ingamar’s bittersweet arrangements are keenly tuned to bend ears and wrench hearts.
To think that his sepiatone verses live on only in records, however, would be a greater tragedy than any he could spin. Whether fronting a fuse-blowing group or by his own dreadnought accompaniment, it’s the live arena where Ingamar’s truest brilliance lay. A lifetime of performance, though briefer than his world-weary songcraft would suggest, has found him sharing sold-out stages across America with the likes of Band of Horses, Parker Millsap, Sawyer Fredericks, and Charlie Parr.
Whether one witnesses his craft in crystallized recording or live in the flesh, to hear him––to truly hear him––is to trace with one’s fingers the silver linings of those yawning clouds of the high prairie. To hear him is to lift the weighty gauze of lonesomeness we all carry.
- S. Anderson