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Roadhouse Sun

Ryan Bingham

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Album Review

At the age of 28, Ryan Bingham already sings like he's been howling at the moon in between shots of bourbon and sucking down filterless Chesterfields every night of his life, transplanting the voice of a hard-bitten middle-aged survivor into the body of a guy still young enough to be learning a few things about the world. This disconnect is felt more than once on Roadhouse Sun, Bingham's second major-label album. While Bingham's road-worn voice and tough melodies, which veer between twang-infused rock, rowdy roadhouse blues, and hardscrabble country, certainly sound like the real thing, and his band (Corby Schaub on guitar, Elijah Ford on bass, Matt Smith on drums) has both the chops and the attitude to make these tunes stand up and crow, on Roadhouse Sun Bingham often sounds like he's singing about the stuff he wishes he knew rather than what's really in his heart and mind. It's less a matter of experience than a question of stretching beyond his creative boundaries; between a seriously busted relationship with his family and years touring on the rodeo circuit, Bingham doubtless has plenty of stories to tell, but as much as he tries to emulate the scope and vision of Bob Dylan in a tune he has the nerve to call "Dylan's Hard Rain," he doesn't come especially close to reaching the mark of his stated influence, and the pseudo-psychedelic poesy of "Changes Is" sounds like pothead wisdom that doesn't sound so clever once the buzz wears off, no matter how hard the band rocks behind it. (And with the help of producer Marc Ford, they rock pretty damn hard when they feel it.) And while the common-man rage of "Hey Hey Hurray" is clearly honest and heartfelt, it's too wordy and scattershot to connect. When Bingham does hit the bulls-eye on tunes like "Wishing Well," "Endless Ways," and "Tell My Mother I Miss Her So," it's clear he's a talent to watch, but as a whole, this is an album whose pieces don't quite fall into place as they should. More than a few folks have compared Ryan Bingham to Bruce Springsteen, but Roadhouse Sun sounds like he's still making his Greetings from Asbury Park — the kind of record whose clunkers are obvious enough to put a chink into the album's very real virtues.

Biography

Born: 31 March 1981 in Hobbs, NM

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '00s, '10s

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....
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Roadhouse Sun, Ryan Bingham
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