Ryan Bingham – Hard Times Troubadour

by | Mar 7, 2009

An empty sack of dust
Or just a box of bones
Call me what you will, son
My name’s Travelin’ Jones
And I search for the fire
Stumbled upon with a precious desire – Ryan Bingham

If you’re from Texas, or have anything to do with Texas, and you’re a talented singer-songwriter, chances are I’ll become a fan. That is, if I know about you.

Yesterday, while surfing KGSR/Austin site to see what they have in store for SXSW, I happened upon Ryan Bingham for the first time. A few fortuitous clicks later and I’m a fan. The Web delivers when you know where to look.

Bingham’s major label debut Mescalito, was produced by Marc Ford, formerly of Black Crowes. The album was recorded at The Compound in Long Beach and released in October 2007 on Lost Highway. Ford, whose son is the group’s bass player, also plays on the album.

Bingham’s music is raw. Apparently, some dip shit music critics don’t do raw and questioned Bingham’s act. Thankfully, Scott Gold of The Los Angeles Times provided a long copy article about Bingham’s life to help the uninformed get a clue.

The more Bingham unspools, the more it becomes clear he is authentically wayworn and wounded, that his life has, as his songs contend, hurtled between cursed and charmed.

Gold describes a tough upbringing in the hard scrabble towns of West Texas and Bingham’s bull riding past.

He broke both legs, one wrist and the big toe on his right foot three times. He broke his right hand at least once just hanging onto the rope, leaving him with a permanent growth on the back of his hand.

Gold also describes happier, and more recent, times.

Bingham had been invited to play in Marfa, Texas, at a large anniversary party thrown every few years by musician Terry Allen and his wife, Jo Harvey. Allen had invited Bingham after catching his act at a local club.

It was no ordinary party; it was more like a Cabinet meeting of the West Texas songwriters. Among those in attendance: Joe Ely, Guy Clark, Butch Hancock, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Robert Earl Keen. David Byrne of the Talking Heads, who’d begun collaborating with Ely, was there too. Everybody had a guitar, and they played until almost 8 the next morning. Bingham kept pace, and more; it was all the Cabinet needed to see.

“It’s a pretty serious lineup, and he just kept right up,” Ely said. “That night, we accepted him into the Texas Songwriters Ne’er-Do-Wells — an exclusive club.”

Bingham and band appeared with the Drive-By Truckers on February 7, 2009 on Austin City Limits.

[MP3] “Sunshine” by Ryan Bingham