Ryan Bingham "Fear and Saturday Night"

Ryan Bingham has seen the best and worst the world has to offer. He doesn’t have to fake it when he writes about tough times and hard losses. He’s experienced the deaths of his parents, one to alcoholism, the other to suicide. He’s lived hand to mouth, making a living as a bull-rider and living in his truck. He’s also been a prince of the award season, picking up an Oscar, Grammy, and Golden Globe Award for best song from a film. He’s released four acclaimed albums with his band The Dead Horses. Life seems rife with possibilities.

Instead of riding his success to a wider audience Bingham has chosen the road less traveled. Fear and Saturday Night is a contemplative, but ultimately positive album that was created in the seclusion of a trailer in the mountains of California, sans modern technology.  He emerged with twelve songs that mark a transition between the bad and good times. Bingham entered the studio with a new band and producer Jim Scott who worked on Tom Petty’s Wildflowers and Wilco’s Wilco: The Album. Recording proceeded mostly live, with minimal production. Guitar is central to the album, anchoring every song. Front and center is Bingham’s sandpapered vocals, warm and weathered from years of straining to rise above the din of smoky bars. It’s a voice that fits his tales of woe and transitional living.

The album kicks off with “Nobody Knows My Trouble.” It’s the kind of song that would have made Townes Van Zandt proud, a mid-tempo ramble through Bingham’s history. It’s a jump-off point for a series of song that finds him evolving from lost cowboy to married man and expectant father. “Broken Heart Tattoos” is a love ballad to an unborn child. “Top Shelf Drug” is an oddly titled exuberant love song that rocks on gritty electric guitar. “Island in the Sky” matches Tex-Mex production with New York City memories. “My Diamond is Too Rough” is an anthem for the under-appreciated, but still defiant members of society. It’s the kind of song that makes Bingham a great songwriter. Despite incredible success he still understands the struggles of living day to day. He’s an articulate troubadour who bridges the distances between people, good and bad times, and musical genres. 

Rosemary Welsch (The Afternoon Mix)

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