A well-rounded live collection from one of today's best Americana artists.
The “antidote to New Country”, Ryan Bingham, has a new concert film out that showcases the artist’s multifaceted abilities and newly restored fervor for his life and music. The aptly named Ryan Bingham Live is the accompanying CD to his latest live performance release, recorded in New Braunfels, Texas, and featured on Amazon Prime Video. The concert finds the country singer’s spirit in a state of newfound optimism coming off the release of his most recent album, Fear and Saturday Night. The result is a true Southern romp, an enjoyable showcase of a talented artist who pours his soul into his craft.
The album begins with the bright chords from Bingham’s acoustic guitar followed by a soaring melody from fiddler Richard Bowden on “Sunrise”. The crowd’s warm and welcoming reaction coupled with the song’s “carpe diem” attitude sets the tone for the show. The sound of Bingham’s band is top notch and the highlight is repeatedly Daniel Sproul. On the second song, “Top Shelf Drug”, the warm, overdriven tone on Sproul’s guitar fiercely cuts through the mix and highlights his undoubted magnificence as a player (just listen to one of his many solos -- especially the “kill-switch” inspired solo on “Top Shelf Drug”). And of course, Bingham’s rasp still sounds as satisfyingly weathered as barrel-aged whiskey. However, there is something different about it that distinguishes it from his work on previous albums and tours with the Dead Horses. Bingham is a singer who reaches into his soul for each crackled note that he sings, and typically, his soul has seemed marked with many a dark blot. Yet due to reported recent changes in his life, the clouds over him seem to have parted.
Bingham’s vivacity most likely comes from his recent marriage to Anna Axter. Bingham says that his “marriage was the one thing that helped pull me through a lot of that stuff (in reference to the recent passing of both of Bingham’s parents). That's been the one thing in my life that's been so stable. So Fear and Saturday Night is about Anna, the baby and the life ahead of me. It's about stuff that's going on -- good stuff”. To this end, his music doesn’t carry the dead weight of the seemingly endless trouble and instability that befell the singer’s younger years. Still, this doesn’t mean his music loses any emotional weight.
Bingham’s increasing distance from his darker days only adds to the emotional range of his voice. He now sings with an enhanced perspective on the ups and downs of life which lends a greater depth to tracks like “Blue Bird”, “Depression” and “Southside of Heaven”. Additionally, this new attitude makes the “get up and dance songs” like “Tell My Mother I Miss Her So" and the album’s closer, “Bread and Water”, even more energetic, coming from a man who knows how important it is to celebrate the good things in life.
Primarily, though, this album is a checklist for a returning Bingham fan and a worthy introduction to newcomers. It presents an artist that perhaps has an eye for a new future for himself, a more positive outlook on life -- an outlook well worth sharing in our present times. While not as good as Bingham’s studio work, his energy and talent are undeniable and it is refreshing to hear fans screaming for a worthy and authentic Southern songwriter rather than the likes of the cringe-worthy Luke Bryan or Florida Georgia Line.