released August 31st, 2010
from the album - Depression
from all music
Americana singer/songwriter Ryan Bingham was raised in rural Texas, where years of hardscrabble ranch work and rodeo competitions would later lend a sense of authenticity to his music. Living alone since his mid-teens, Bingham shuttled back and forth between Southwestern border towns and relatives' homes, often sleeping in his truck after rodeo shows. It was during those treks that he began entertaining friends with the guitar, an instrument he'd learned at the age of 17 from a mariachi neighbor. Drawing inspiration from Bob Dylan, Marshall Tucker, and Bob Wills — all of whom populated the jukebox of The Halfway Bar, a roadhouse owned by Bingham's uncle (whose musical tastes influenced those of his nephew) — Bingham fashioned a road-weary sound that piqued the interest of a barroom proprietor in Stephenville, TX. Bingham was offered a weekly residency at the bar; soon after, he began issuing self-released albums like Lost Bound Rails and Wishbone Saloon. The material was brought to the attention of Nashville heavyweights Lost Highway Records, who signed Bingham and issued his major-label debut, Mescalito (featuring production by Marc Ford, former guitarist for the Black Crowes), in October 2007.
Mescalito was well received by critics, with Rolling Stone aptly comparing Bingham's raw, scratchy voice to that of "Steve Earle's dad." After supporting the album with ample tour dates, the songwriter reprised his relationship with Marc Ford, who produced 2009's Roadhouse Sun. Later that year, he joined another music veteran — producer/songwriter T-Bone Burnett — in contributing music to the film Crazy Heart. Revolving around the the attempted comeback of a down-and-out country singer, Crazy Heart became one of the year's highest-praised films and won a Golden Globe and an Oscar for "The Weary Kind," one of Bingham's original compositions written with T-Bone Burnett, the soundtrack's musical director and producer. Bingham and his band the Dead Horses followed it with the album Junky Star in September of 2010, produced by Burnett.
Songwriter Ryan Bingham has grown tremendously on this third full-length. Barely 30 years old, his previous work showed promise but carried the excess expected of a novice. Bingham won both a Golden Globe and an Oscar for "The Weary Kind," the theme song from the film Crazy Heart. The song was produced by T-Bone Burnett, creating a partnership extended on Junky Star. Bingham and his Dead Horses--drummer Matthew Smith, bassist Elijah Ford, and guitarist Corby Schaub, prove the song was no fluke. The sound is pure Americana; these 12 lyrically sophisticated yet direct songs, reflect a host of tense, lost, desperate, individuals dreaming the same dark dream, one that suggests that we are all growing tenser with the times. Bingham has trimmed his songwriting to the bone, while learing to use metaphor and metonomy like a veteran. A former rodeo rider, he wears his influences proudly: Guthrie, Dylan, Van Zandt, Ely, Earle, Clark, and Hubbard. He begins with a sandblasted vision of America in "the Poet." Amid acoustic guitars, a lonesome harmonica ,restrained electric and bass drum, Bingham's whiskey-smoked vocal offers a lyric theme the entire album turns on: "As I keep walking, people keep talking/About things they've never seen or done/Homeless sleep in the park, lovers kiss in the dark/Me, I keep moving on through time." Time is suspended as Bingham's protagonists tell stories from the road (some of them bone-chilling), from America's past and present, physically and psychologically. Rootlessness as peace of mind is portrayed via country rock in "The Wandering," but the feeling in "Strange Feeling In The Air," the title track, a deeply moving acoustic murder ballad (they are strewn throughout the album), and the angry uptempo "Depression," reflect a contradiction: constant movement is the key to survival, not necessarily peace. "Hallelujah" is another murder ballad with a disturbing twist. "Lay My Head On The Rail," is pure folk poetry illustrated by a lone acoustic guitar. The blues in "Hard Worn Trail," are rooted in poverty worry, strained, broken relationships resulting in the search for comfort. It doesn't come anywehre on Junky Star. "All Choked Up Again," set to Waylon Jennings' brand of outlaw country closes it out by mining the existential darkness deeper. Bingham is unflinching, but his songs hold out for a glimmer of something else. The only real consolation Junky Star offers is that no one need feel alone in her or his desperation-this is a true accomplishment. Bingham has delivered a set of songs that mirrors our uncertain times in a musical language that doesn't unduly distort or romanticise them.
1 The Poet Bingham 4:57
2 The Wandering Bingham 3:08
3 Strange Feelin' In the Air Bingham 4:45
4 Junky Star Bingham 4:49
5 Depression Bingham 4:53
6 Hallelujah Bingham 5:00
7 Yesterday's Blues Bingham 4:14
8 Direction of the Wind Bingham 4:29
9 Lay My Head On the Rail Bingham 3:01
10 Hard Worn Trail Bingham 3:55
11 Self-Righteous Wall Bingham 5:18
12 All Choked Up Again Bingham 6:12