It really bugs me when an artist plays right outside of D.C.- in this instance, northern Virginia. For a couple of reasons really; 1- I think the bars in D.C. are plenty and perfect for many of these artists, and 2- I don't have a car, so it's a bitch. Regardless, when you hear that Ryan Bingham is coming close, you go. You figure out public transportation, and you make sacrifices.
The Wild Feathers
To open up the night, The Wild Feathers out of Nashville, TN came out guns blazing. The five piece band sounded like a mix between Ryan Adams and what Kings of Leon could sound like if they weren't so concerned about their perfect hair and sex of the fire variety. There was 3-part harmony on most of the songs and vocal duties switched between the 2 guitarists and the bassist. While the band itself was a tight, cohesive unit, I will say that the drummer was the most fun to watch. My friend and I could not stop watching the full-on assault he was laying on the drums all night. The Wild Feathers' set offered up an energetic, fun set. They mentioned they will be putting out a new record this year, and I, for one, can not wait to hear it.
Last year, Ryan Bingham dropped his backing band The Dead Horses and opted for a solo album. After seeing Ryan and The Dead Horses a couple years ago and really loving that line-up, I was a bit worried that maybe this would be a bit of different affair. However, the troubadour and his new motley crew of a band made sure any notions of doubt were washed away with the first few notes of the show.
If you haven't heard his latest album, you might not know that Bingham is pissed off about the state of the nation, politics, and the separation between the haves and have-nots. There's a certain anger that rings throughout the raucous "Guess Who's Knocking" and the restrained "Rising of the Ghetto." These type songs have been the staple of his career and in a live setting, they come across as poignant and unabashedly fun.
Bingham ripped through a set that included all of the crowd favorites, such as, "Bread and Water," "Hard Times," "Sunrise," "Country Roads," "Tell My Mother I Miss Her So," "Hallelujah," and "The Poet." Each song was sung with an intensity that is specific to Bingham's style of country-infused folk/rock music. The crowd was entranced and fully enthralled by the music. Every song turned into a sing-along and dance party. If you can stand still during the breakdown of "Sunrise," you truly have no soul.
Bingham's new backing band was every bit up to the task of keeping up with the talented frontman. The fiddle player seamlessly weaved in and out of every song. The lead guitarist ripped and roared with killer slide guitar solos. The rhythm section kept it all together at chest rattling volume. By the time the last song of the first set was over, you could tell that no one was ready to go home and it was almost inevitable that we would stay until we got an encore.
The encore consisted of just Bingham with an acoustic guitar. He played a couple of songs before ending with the appropriate "Ever Wonder Why." With the final line being, "Well, I'll see you all around," it felt like there was no better song to have ended the show on.
If you are only familiar with Ryan Bingham because of this well-known (and deservedly so) song, "The Weary Kind," you are doing yourself a disservice. He is not to be missed. Maybe his albums could stand to cut out a song or two in order to be truly great, but each album is still important. And, if you aren't a fan of his albums, go see him live. Do yourself a favor. The charasmatic troubadour will win you over.
This is a mid-tempo rock anthem that I'm not completely sold on after a couple of listens. It sounds a little like the band might be edging towards Kings of Leon-type arena rock. That gives me concern since, well, that whole thing didn't turn out well for KOL, at least as far as their image and my enjoyment of their music goes. I've heard the Dirty Guv'nahs forthcoming album is supposed to be really strong so I'm holding out hope for a little southern rock goodness coming down the pipe. "3000 Miles" is decent, but I hope it's not indicative of the band's direction.
This sounds like a continuation of where the band was headed with their last album, I and Love and You. That move toward more pop melody and less intricate strings didn't bother me so much, though I certainly prefer the livelier madness of earlier tracks like "Die Die Die." "Live and Die" is well-played though, and very catchy. It has a warmth that tells me the band is moving in a natural direction, not guided by commerce.
I know a lot of people love this guy, and honestly, I loved Mescalito, but nothing since has lasted me past 5 or 10 plays. "Heart of Rhythm" is a heartland rocker that's way more Mellencamp than Texas troubadour, but it works for Ryan as he's always been more of a rocker. This tune is pretty sneaky. I didn't like it at first, but in the course of listening to it for this review, it has crept into my mind and changed my opinion completely. It seems tossed together and haphazard, but that's part of its charm and the hook is simple but contagious. I had nearly written Bingham off, but "Heart of Rhythm" has me at least mildly interested in what's to come.
This week's iTunes free single from a band whose 2011 album, Moonlight Revival, finished in my top 10 of the year is an utter let-down. Way too much production, not enough song quality. I described them as the Black Crowes by way of Muscle Shoals with a lead singer whose vocals were "stirring." So what'd they do? Bury that superb voice in reverb and take every ounce of southern rocking out of their sound. Yep, Ponderosa is now an indie rock band, apparently. I'm not saying this is a horrible song - it's growing on me. I'm saying this isn't what I expected or wanted from these guys. I'm not one of those fans who cries sell-out about bands who change their sound….slowly. Ponderosa has made such a violent shift in sound that it's artistically jarring and doesn't feel honest. At least they didn't go towards a more commercial sound, I suppose. I may come around on this tune and Ponderosa's genre jump, but for now, I'm not happy.
The new Ryan Bingham album, Junky Star is only $3.99 this week at Amazon (mp3 download). I've listened to it twice so far and I'm fairly certain it will find a high ranking on my next top albums chart. Seems to be much better than Roadhouse Sun. Give it a shot. Can't go wrong at that price!