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{Review} Ryan Bingham-Roadhouse Sun


I first met and heard Ryan Bingham at River Road Icehouse when he was a scraggly and road hardened teenaged rodeo cowboy who had just a few songs in his guitar. Including one he called “Southside of Heaven” that he was working on. He had a magnetism about him that was hard to put a finger on.
I remember watching him open up for someone at River Road and the show not being very good. Yet, there was a raw energy and vastly untapped potential under the surface of 10 minute train and pain songs this kid was banging out. It took several years, and a legendary coin flip in Steamboat, Colorado for Bingham to finally put all the pieces together. Those pieces, with the help of Marc Ford, through a couple avenues and incarnations eventually became Bingham’s watershed national album release, Mescalito. The Mescalito record catapulted Bingham into the national musical consciousness, made him a critic’s darling and landed him on The Tonight Show and many year end best of lists. While touring the globe in support of that effort, Bingham began to write and refine what would be his next release,Roadehouse Sun.

Roadhouse Sun displays the continued upward trajectory of Bingham’s career and talent. He is tapping deeper and deeper into that hidden well of talent I first saw so many years ago. The album kicks off with the immediately wistful and quickly grooving “Day is Done”. Piano freely intermingles with slide guitars and what have become’s Bingham’s trademark lyrical stylings. Bingham’s lyrics are a pleasant mixture of classic west Texas desperation and desolation along with a gypsy’s optimism for better things down the road. That being said, this record finds Bingham’s lyrical inspirations widening a bit from strictly autobiographically based road parables. “Dylan’s Hard Rain” is a song with a driving rhythm and a poet’s words. Do not pick this record up expecting a country album. This is Folk Rock in a very literal interpretation of the words. Not the kind of homogeonized American rock n’ roll that John Mellencamp created in the early 80’s and has been treading in ever since, but some sort of new sound.

Collectively, Roadhouse Sun is a record made by a great American rock band that just happens to be fronted by a former cowboy who has lived twenty lives within his mere twenty something years here on Earth. The songs on this record are full of toe-tapping grooves and riffs that continually combine with the type of thoughtful lyrics that leave the tunes playing in your head even when you’re not listening to the album. Examples of this are the hard hitting ” Endless Ways” and the free-wheeling “Change Is”. “Roadhouse Blues” is a time-traveling tune that takes your ears to the piano led riffs of an old West saloon. A saloon with a killer Marshall stack and drum kit. By the time Bingham and his able Dead Horses crank into “Hey Hey Hurray” they have created some sort of unique country rock song with thick basslines, drum crashes, catchy chorus and fast hip-hop style rapid fire lyrics.

Bingham’s rabble rousing vocals and powerful lyrics pound the emotion home, while the Dead Horses do the heavy lfiting. Ford’s production work, coupled with one of the most powerful mixes I’ve come across on a record in a long time lead this to be very successful follow-up to Bingham’s breakthrough. Mescalito provided the shoulders Roadhouse Sun stands atop, as Roadhouse Sun reaches new heights altogether.

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