Ryan Bingham & the Dead Horses House of Blues March 19, 2011
Ryan Bingham is the kind of musician you can't help but love. The music he and his band play is infectious, and his scratchy vocals make all their songs sound as if years of heartache and bad luck were poured into them. Mix all that emotion with a pack of Marlboros (or maybe a pinch of dip) and a bottle of Jack, and you've got yourself one hell of a show.
Saturday night at a sold-out House of Blues, Bingham and his band the Dead Horses leapt around the stage for an hour and a half, serenading the crowd, which swooned, jumped about and even two-stepped the night away, all while spilling beer all over themselves and us.
The Oscar- and Golden Globe-winning singer-songwriter has had a place in our hearts for a while now, since we heard "The Weary Kind" on the soundtrack to 2009's Crazy Heart, the much-lauded film about an alcoholic country music star seemingly on his last legs.
Bingham's style is similar to the likes of Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash, because when he sings about hardship, the sincerity in his voice makes audiences not only believe him, but feel the emotion behind it. While he's only 29, his voice is so scruffy, earnest and gut-wrenching, you might think he's in his 50s upon first hearing him.
The music Bingham writes has heart, sweat and tears poured into it. And not just his own, either. When asked about his lyricism in interviews, Bingham has always made mention of how much he travels, everything he and his band witness and his attempt to write music about (and for) the people he sees and meets.
His songs are about hardship, but they always sound as if there's a glimmer of hope in the not-too-far distance.
Not all of Bingham's music is sad, though. Although most of it is riddled with unfortunate circumstances and bad luck, plenty of his songs are upbeat - jovial, even. And when they're fun, you can't help but feel like dancing. And Saturday, the audience did plenty of that.
But no matter what kind of songs he writes, they always come across as authentic. And that, in our humble opinion, is what's missing in so much music these days. Authenticity is appreciated; authenticity is admired; and authenticity can sell-out the best-sounding venue in Houston.
Ryan Bingham and The Dead Horses are proof of as much.
Personal Bias: We were forced to listen to country music growing up. Because of that, we developed something of an aversion for it for years and years... until we heard "The Weary Kind." It struck a chord, and we decided to give the genre another chance. We ain't turned back since, y'all.
The Crowd: We saw a lot of pearl-snap shirts and plenty of cowboy hats, but we couldn't discern who were "real" cowboys and who were hipsters, just wearing cowboy hats ironically. Are you confused? So were we. Oh, and have you ever been stuck behind a tall cowboy at a concert? It sucks. You can peer around most people, but it's a bit harder to do so when he is wearing a big cowboy hat. No disrespect, though. We love all cowboy paraphernalia; it just so happens that it inconvenienced us a bit on Saturday.
Overheard In the Crowd: "Take your shirt off, you sexy sonuvabitch!!"
Random Notebook Dump: Unfortunately, we missed The Silent Comedy, who were onstage before Bingham. It's not because we weren't on site; there was confusion with regard to our tickets at will-call, for which a faulty printer was to blame, and we weren't allowed inside in time to see them perform.
We did, however, hear from plenty of people that they put on an amazing show, so we bought a CD to substantiate the claims. And yes, they are very, very good.
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