Monday, October 01, 2007

Ryan Bingham - Mescalito

Ryan Bingham deserves an introduction as gritty as his indie country rock music. The 25 year old Texan comes from a difficult upbringing that saw him move with his parents back and forth from California to Texas and a few places in between. Due to certain circumstances he was forced to live by himself starting in his mid-teens. He traveled between Southwestern boarder towns and relatives' homes, and was no stranger to sleeping in his truck after small rodeo gigs. Mr. Bingham learned guitar at 17 from a mariachi neighbor and began entertaining friends with his songs. His rustic influences range from Bob Dylan and Marshall Tucker to Bob Wills. These greats were heard by Bingham in the jukebox while frequenting his uncle's roadhouse saloon named the Halfway Bar. His genre-bending mix of blues, mariachi, zydeco, and alt-country give his music a unique sound even if his lyrical content is occasionally predictable for those familiar with this type of music. Luckily, Mr. Bingham's personal history is infused into both his music and lyrics to give the songs an unmistakable verisimilitude. This realness is one of the things that separates his debut album Mescalito from other aspiring alt-country artists. He's not singing about certain things just because they're musical stereotypes, but rather as life-altering personal experiences.

Mescalito is generally engaging and a pleasure to listen to. Upon hearing the first words out of Mr. Bingham's mouth you get a sense of his utterly unique voice. It's as if he has medium-grit sandpaper lining his vocal chords. His voice isn't raspy or weak, but rather exhibits characteristics of age and miles ahead of his 25 years. The whole album feels like it was recorded in a studio with a sandy dirt floor with a sign saying "No Shoes Required / Beware Rattlesnakes" on a fencepost outside the door. The best tunes see Mr. Bingham and his band the Dead Horses dig their heels into grooves and really jam with a mix of slide guitar, banjo, bass, and fiddle. While most are of the medium tempo variety, there are a few heartfelt ballads sprinkled throughout. Maybe the album as a whole isn't laser-focused, but it gives an incredible introduction to a burgeoning alt-country artist bursting with talent who is already wise beyond his years.

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