Ryan Bingham & the Dead Horses “Roadhouse Sun” Lost Highway

With the addition of his new backing band, Ryan Bingham’s new release has a much more full sound than it’s predecessor, “Mescalito.”  The Dead Horses sound like a good bar band should, and they give this album much more energy.  At times, it almost feels like a live recording.

Lyrically, “Roadhouse Sun” finds Bingham trying his hand at some political themes.  Racism and immigrants are topics explored in “Dylan’s Hard Rain,” and the sound (as well as the indictment of American policies) on “Endless Ways” is reminiscent of some of John Mellencamp’s output.  The level of instrumentation points back to southern rock from the 70s, although it never approaches the point of overkill.  (There’s a bit in “Change Is” that makes me wonder if the piano player has listened to a lot of prog rock.).

Bingham does seem to be growing as a songwriter, but not everything works (The whole of “Bluebird” feels pretty awkward.).  Some lines are totally indecipherable; “Rollin’ Highway Blues” opens with, “If I had the chance to hold you again in my crying eyes.”  Then again a line like “I’ve been gone for so long, I think the devil lost my name” may not hold much meaning to me, but I can’t help but like it anyway.

It must said that the lyrical issues might not seem as big if the Bingham did not sound so damn old.  He’s only 28, but the raspy, road-worn voice brings to mind a much older guy.  It might be best to think of him as a husky voiced, less self-obsessed Ryan Adams, but I just can’t help but think of guys like Kristofferson because of the way he sounds (Okay, he doesn’t sound as old as Kristofferson, but he has rasp beyond his years.).

In the end, it’s a good album with a great sound that mixes loose rock with country, Americana and folk to good result and is a testament to Bingham evolving and improving.  The album has such a nice energy to it that’s it’s pretty easy to overlook the quibbles.  It’s a good time, and I’m sure it translates into a great live show.


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