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Roots rocker changes course

Ryan Bingham with The White Buffalo
Majestic Theatre
Madison, WI
October 24, 2012
Ryan Bingham
Ryan Bingham
The White Buffalo
The White Buffalo

Review and photos by Jennifer Bronenkant

Ryan Bingham, 31, has had quite a run in the last few years starting with his involvement in the 2009 movie "Crazy Heart" in which he played a small part as Tony in the bowling alley house band and more importantly for which he wrote the title track "The Weary Kind" which garnered him an Academy Award, Golden Globe Award, Grammy Award and the Song of The Year from The Americana Music Association. All of this attention brought him out of relative obscurity as a touring musician into being the target of bit of a media frenzy. The attention has died down as Bingham took most of last year off to write and form his own Axter Bingham label with his wife film maker and Bingham manager Anna Axster.

The result of this time off of the road is a change in creative direction for Bingham. His September release Tomorrowland is much more rock than the country rock of his three previous Lost Highway Records releases. He has also replaced his band Dead Horses with a trio of musicians to better fit the new sound.

According to Bingham, he wanted to make a change in his music from the darkness of many of his previous recordings to songs that would be more enjoyable to sing night after night on tour. Much of the new work continues to feature very personal lyrics but instead of his acoustic guitar Bingham has started playing primarily an electric guitar. His voice, smokey beyond his years, is still unmistakable.

Bingham has a great following in Madison. The relationship with many of the Wisconsin fans may have been strengthened by his two visits to the Capital last year to sing in support of the union workers during the collective bargaining protests. On this visit, a second show was scheduled at the Majestic after Bingham quickly sold out the first show. The set on this second night was a mix of new work along with some of his most rocking old favorites. Bingham opened the show by introducing two new songs: the in-your-face "Guess Who's Knocking" followed by rock anthem "Heart of Rhythm" before treating the audience to more familiar songs. He continued to sandwich the new with the old for the whole performance, dishing up each in wonderful balance.

Old favorites "Southside of Heaven" and "Day Is Done" were highlights that got the crowd singing along. Bingham spoke with the crowd before many of the new songs. Although his lyrics are based on his life experiences he often addresses social issues while singing of his struggles and of those around him. He introduced "Western Shore" as for the kids out on the streets he sees while touring the country saying maybe it could give them some hope. Before singing "I heard 'em Say" he told of writing it after visiting the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. He said that he wanted to try to sing the song again this night since a guy at the previous night's show threw a cup of ice water at him when sung it. "It makes me want to sing it more." He then spoke of singing on the Capital steps last year and told the audience that he still supports the workers of Wisconsin before performing a solo acoustic "Too Deep To Fill."

On a more personal note, Bingham told of losing both of his parents in the last few years and sang "Never Far Behind" for them. The song speaks to the struggles he continues to wrestle with as the child of substance abusers who's chaotic lives sent Bingham off on his own at a very early age.

Although Bingham now resides in California his West Texas roots run deep in his music, even as he heads in to a decidedly more rock and roll direction. Some longtime fans are having a little trouble accepting the new direction but not to worry, going electric worked out okay for Bingham influence Bob Dylan.

Singer/Songwriter Jake Smith who goes by the name The White Buffalo was an opening act that was well matched to a Bingham show. His simple roots based music has the same intrinsic honesty as Bingham's music. His large presence and equally large deep voice filled the room with his solo acoustic set of master storytelling.

Ryan Bingham Set List:
Guess Who's Knocking
Heart Of Rhythm
Tell My Mother I Miss Her So
Beg For Broken Legs
Western Shore
Dollar A Day
Hard Times
I Heard 'em Say
Southside Of Heaven
Day Is Done
Never Far Behind
Hallelujah (solo acoustic)
Too Deep To Fill (solo acoustic)
Bread & Water

Related articles:

Ryan Bingham & The Dead Horses (Lollapalooza 2011) - Chicago, IL August 2011
Ryan Bingham (Country Throwdown 2010) - Tinley Park, IL May 2010

Ryan Bingham
Ryan Bingham
Ryan Bingham
Ryan Bingham
Ryan Bingham
Ryan Bingham
The White Buffalo
The White Buffalo
Ryan Bingham
Ryan Bingham
Ryan Bingham
Ryan Bingham

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