Ryan Bingham – American Love Song Album Review: The Texan Songwriter Returns With His Latest LP
Ryan Bingham isn’t an artist that concerns himself with the mainstream country crowd, he’s a songwriter, a performer and an artist who has blazed his own trail for the last five studio albums, collecting an Oscar along the way. 2019 sees him return with ‘American Love Song’, a fifteen track studio LP released on 15th February. Bingham will be touring extensively, heading over to Europe for a run of acoustic shows followed by an appearance at Black Deer Festival.
As soon as you press play on this record, the gravelly voiced singer smacks you right in the face. Album opener ‘Jingle and Go’ is a blues infused stomper. It sounds like a 60’s Rolling Stones cut, only Jagger is replaced by an all-American southern voice. Slide guitar and some great backing vocals help this song move along and get those feet tapping. It flows seamlessly into the second track ‘Nothin’ Holds Me Down’, you can already feel that Bingham has shifted gears on this record, it’s upbeat and it’s funky, moving slightly away from his acoustic songwriter roots.
The album may have its fair share of Louisiana blues sounding stompers, but there’s still plenty of space for traditional country sounds. The fiddle opens ‘Pontiac’, leading into another uptempo song with a blues shuffle backing up Bingham’s powerful vocals. It’s half countrified and half rocking blues, these first three songs would make one hell of a live set!
There’s still time to slow things down, and songs like ‘Lover Girl’ give us all a breather. An acoustic song with some great slide guitar, all about picking up a girl and trying to get her to dance. It’s Bingham back in those smoky Texan barrooms again, allowing him to show the vulnerable side to his powerful voice. “If I only knew just where to start, I’d tell you how I fell apart, wound up in this hotel bar, standing here right where you are”, the honestly of the lyrics add to the song brilliantly. This is similar to ‘Wolves’ later on in the album, a similarly stripped back song about being bullied as a child and standing your ground.
I mentioned the Deep South Louisiana sound earlier and songs like ‘Beautiful and Kind’ really highlight this. The fingerpicked dobro guitar and raw vocals conjure images of singing to the devil at the crossroads. It’s amazing how easily Bingham switches gears from rock and roll to acoustic songwriter. ‘Got Damn Blues’ is similar in its approach, it’s roots blues at its finest. Simple, muddy and real. A great break from some of the processed country we hear these days.
One of the true highlights of the album comes in ‘Blue’. A huge, epic song with a stadium sized chorus, this is another example of how Ryan Bingham can dip his toe into the waters of many styles and make it work. With a full band behind him, this will be a song to catch at live shows. It’s a song about feeling depression creeping on and trying to escape it, the passion in Bingham’s vocals fully encapsulate the desperation felt. He sings “maybe I’m feeling too far gone, maybe I’m feeling on my own”, a song for our times if there ever was one.
This album firmly straddles the lines between blues, country and rock and roll. Just listen to ‘Hot House’ and tell me that it isn’t an absolute gumbo of American roots influences, a chugging rock guitar riff, wailing gospel singers and Bingham’s whiskey-soaked vocals, plus it includes the line “I’m sitting in the hot house, that bitch won’t post my bail”, if that’s not a country lyrics then I don’t know what is.
This album is a rare treat in a world full of ten-song albums coming in just over half an hour. ‘American Love Song’ has fifteen songs, running for an hour and seven minutes. This isn’t to the detriment of quality though, the final trio of songs, the tender ‘Stones’, the pained political number ‘America’, a song that speaks about the state of the great nation and asks “America, what have we done?” and attempts to rally the people, letting “her light make us as one”, and finally ‘Blues Lady’, a big rocker.
Many people’s first thought when it comes to Ryan Bingham is his Oscar win and the song ‘The Weary Kind’ from the Jeff Bridges film ‘Crazy Heart’, you’re missing out on a whole world of amazing music if this is the case. From his stunning debut, the dusty, cowboy record ‘Mescalito’ right through to his last album ‘Fear and Saturday Night’, Ryan Bingham has constantly offered something fresh on his records. ‘American Love Song’ does this again, but really kicks up the gears. It’s a blues-country album full of everything from big rockers and stadium anthems to songwriter songs and blues shuffles. As always, for those complaining that country music is falling apart, Bingham proves that this isn’t the case. Great music is out there, you just have to look for it.
- Jingle and Go
- Nothin’ Holds Me Down
- Lover Girl
- Beautiful and Kind
- Situation Station
- Got Damn Blues
- Time for My Mind
- What Would I’ve Become
- Hot House
- Blues Lady
Jingle and Go, Lover Girl, Wolves, Blue
Six Shooter Rating
9 out of 10
You Can Buy ‘American Love Song’ on iTunes here.