This moody, recession-themed collection from Bingham — who won an Oscar this year for a song from Crazy Heart — is unlikely to boost anyone’s morale during our current downturn, but Junky Star might make some folks feel less alone. And whether backed by simple guitar or a full-band ramble, Bingham’s intricately detailed portraits of the wayward and lost are some of the best short stories you’ll hear all year. A? Download These:Desperately hopeful Hallelujah at myspace.comHarmonica-driven at texasmusicmatters.kut.org See all of this week’s reviews .
On his third album, songwriter Ryan Bingham reveals both confidence and growth. His previous recordings showed promise but were marred by youthful excesses. Bingham won an Oscar for "The Weary Kind," the theme song from the film Crazy Heart. The song was produced by T-Bone Burnett, creating a partnership extended on Junky Star.
If the alt-country community is continually on the lookout for the next great Americana hero, they’ve had an easy time of it lately getting excited about the skyrocketing stock of Ryan Bingham. Here’s a brooding and handsome 29-year-old slide-slinger and finger-picker who sings his hillbilly beat poetry in a scrap-metal growl over bristling folk-blues arrangements. Bingham was already stoking a hot fire with his sophomore album, last year’s dynamite Roadhouse Sun and upped the ante by damn near stealing the Farm Aid concert back in October with a three-song set of hard-as-nails takes on songs from the debut, 2007’s Mescalito.
We’ve gotta send out a long-distance high five to Ryan Bingham from all of us out here in listener-land -– he got invited to the big dance and opted instead for a lonely drive down a long dark road and our stereos will all be better for it. The L.A.-based, Texas-born singer-songwriter could have gone in a very, very different direction as his follow up to “The Weary Kind,” the Oscar-winning tune from 2009’s country music parable Crazy Heart. Nobody would have begrudged him a run at the brass ring and it’s not too far of a stretch to imagine the good looking, gravel-voiced Bingham becoming a crossover pop star but, nope, he decided to go way off trail and follow his big win with Junky Star.
In terms of the film Crazy Heart, Ryan Bingham embodies the best of both lead characters, the outlaw spirit and hard-knocks past of Jeff Bridges' Bad Blake and the youthful charisma of Colin Farrell's Tommy Sweet. Bingham's third LP, Junky Star, could segue right out of the film's closing credits, thanks in part to his Oscar-winning "The Weary Kind" co-writer and producer T Bone Burnett, who adds his brand-name snake rattle ambience to "Hard Worn Trail," the canyon echo of "The Poet," and even tremolo guitar to the wobbly classic county ache of "All Choked Up Again. " With the exception of Dylan nod "Direction of the Wind" and vindictive "Strange Feelin' in the Air," Bingham eschews the raucousness of last year's Roadhouse Sun for the Lubbock dust and smoking gun balladry of 2007 bow Mescalito.