Ryan Bingham – Fear and Saturday Night (Rating 4 out of 5)

binghamWhen you have an almost a Rodriguez-like rise from early set bar room gigs to the top three spot headlining Americana music festivals like Ryan Bingham has experienced on the strength of “Weary Kind” the song that was featured in the film Crazy Heart that earned him an Oscar, a Grammy, and a Golden Globe, the follow-up road can be very bumpy indeed.

Make no mistake, the whiskey soaked voiced singer songwriter put out some real first-rate records before strapping himself on the rocket to stardom including the excellent Mescalito, his excellent debut record released in 2007, and the even better Roadhouse Sun where Bingham seems to have found his Americana/Road House Blues lane.

Two albums in now without his band The Dead Horses Ryan seems to have hit his stride with his latest release Fear and Saturday Night. The arrangements are a bit tighter, much less sparse and much more concise with the opener “Nobody Knows my Trouble” showing Bingham with a bit of a spring in his step that seemed to be missing on his last couple of releases. The song is seemingly autobiographical taking the listener from the first time he picked up the guitar, to the heights of fame, and beyond.

He still sounds like Bob Dylan lite most of the time, and never more so here than on “Broken Heart Tattoos” complete with an opening harmonica salvo.  “Top Shelf Drug” is a rocker that falls somewhere between Crazy Horse and Ray Wylie Hubbard, and “Radio” is about as light and sunny as we have seen Bingham get, and shows that he is no one-tick pony.

“Hands of Time” is pure Bo Diddley, “Snow Falls in June” is almost a ballad with some delicate and intricate guitar work the demonstrates what a good player Bingham is.  This is a really good song here, but you can’t help but wonder what it would sound like in the tonsils of a singer with a higher register, maybe a Jason Isbel, or even Jim James.  “Fear and Saturday Night”  the title track, is a real showpiece, and he even goes all Doug Sahm on us with the Tex-Mex infused fun rocker “Adventures of You and Me.”

Ryan Bingham could probably sing the phone book and make it sound interesting, and with after enjoying this latest slice of Americana everyman pie, we are happy to report that success has not spoiled him yet.