Monday, June 28, 2010

Cycle of CDs: Ryan Bingham - 'Roadhouse Sun' (2009)

When I first heard Ryan Bingham's song "The Weary Kind" for the movie Crazy Heart, I wasn't impressed. I thought that the movie people had gotten it wrong; they could've found a better song. It was bland to me. (Trivia note: that's Bingham in Bad Blake's back-up band in the bowling alley scene of Crazy Heart.)

Then I caught Ryan Bingham on the episode of Austin City Limits with The Drive-by Truckers. I thought, "Shit yeah. That's more like it." He was backed with a great alt-country band, was wearing a cowboy hat with Converse All Stars, and sang better songs than "The Weary Kind." So, I ordered his CD.

Bingham has that voice that I like. It's very much in the vein of Ben Nichols of Lucero. What's lacking is his songwriting. He's good, don't get me wrong. And this album has some great stories, lines, and music; however, you know deep down, he's yet to write his best song.

One of the standout tracks is "Dylan's Hard Rain," which references the Bob Dylan classic while reflecting on the current state of America. I especially like the line in it where Bingham considers the idea of legalizing weed: "On the border of Tijuana/People are growing truckloads of marijuana/Maybe someday our friends will be American farmers." Not bad.

Where he falters is in his repetitiveness. Even within his verses, he repeats a lot of the same lines that aren't particularly the strongest in the song ("When the day is done/I was born a bad man's son").

His slow songs are really slow, too. They are a nice break from the rest of the CD, but they do tend to bog the album down a little.

The production is great, though, and the music is fantastic.

It's a good effort, but it's not the best thing in the world. If you like country or alt-country, you'll like Bingham's Roadhouse Sun. You may not like all of it, but it has some really great moments. I'd be willing to hear more.

Editor's Note: This is the eleventh of a series of essays where the author takes a look and listen into every CD he has in his collection.

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