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Home Sounds: Ryan Bingham

Posted on: Saturday, September 17, 2016

If you love the voice of Ryan Bingham, then you love it out of the blue. At first it sounds raspy, discordant–then you hear that note of truth. It’s an old banged-up ring you find in a store off Route 66; tarnished and dinged, but then you bite and taste silver. Dylanesque, full of red dirt and experience. Husky, dusky, whiskey rough, distilled Americana, blues and soul, more than a little rock and roll.

You can hear Bingham’s history as a bullrider, rodeo cowboy, and ranchhand growing up in New Mexico in his voice–you can tell he has earned the right to sing folk. As he told Rolling Stone Magazine:

I can’t stand studios. When I started playing, I kind of lived out of my truck. I had a camper set on the back, and I’d just disappear out in the desert, or find these real desolate places and set up camp for a while and hang out. I still miss parts of that, when I was just rambling around out there.

It seems that part of that change in scenery came about in 2009, when Bingham’s song Weary Kind won him and co-writer T Bone Burnett a shelf’s worth of awards (Oscar, Grammy, Critic’s Choice, and Golden Globe) after being featured in the Jeff Bridges film Crazy Heart.

This sudden genre-crossing success changed nothing in Bingham’s musical path. In fact, he left his record label shortly afterward to self-release Tomorrowland in 2012, bucking the music industry to maintain control. As for his newest album, Fear and Saturday Night, all the songs were written in an Airstream isolated in the mountains of California. Bingham’s career is one of creative control and non-conformism.

I saw Ryan in December 2015, the first time he headlined the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco. His live show reflected a newfound jubilance. In the tradition of folk, Bingham is bold enough to wear his heart on his sleeve: While Tomorrowland is an angry, bleak reflection after the deaths of his parents; Fear and Saturday Night is happier and lighter, reflecting his marriage and the birth of his daughter. Considering his choices so far, at 35 there is every reason to believe Ryan is an artist who will keep growing and being true to himself and his sound.


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