Ryan Bingham | 10.24.10

Bingham undoubtedly surrounds himself with a positive energy that works to counterbalance the dark emotional content of much of his music.

Old Rock House, St. Louis
The rain was coming down and the show started late, but the sold-out crowd packed into the Old Rock House to see Ryan Bingham and the Dead Horses were undeterred. Bingham, a recent Acadamy Award winner, has earned recent notoriety for his contributions to the Crazy Heart soundtrack. The 29-year old New Mexico/Texas native has now released 3 albums under the Lost Highway label. He’s known for songwriting that reflects his troubled, nomadic youth and a scratchy voice that makes him sound as if he’s the offspring of Tom Waits.
The doors opened at 9 p.m., late by most anyone’s standards for a Sunday event. Pennsylvania-based outfit The Rustlanders opened the show by performing a 45-minute set that was well received by the almost too enthusiastic crowd. Around 11:15, Bingham finally took the stage accompanied by the Dead Horses, who consist of Corby Schaub on mandolin and guitar, Matthew Smith on drums and Elijah Ford on bass. The crowd was a mirror image of the band, all dressed in the plaid and denim typical of the country music genre. Despite maintaining a lovable and approachable presence throughout their entire set, the band resonated ‘badass,’ from the tops of their shaggy, unshaven heads, to the tips of their Chuck Taylor-covered toes. 
The band opened with “Day is Done,” a song whose lyrics indirectly speak of the hardships the singer endured as a neglected teenager who spent a good portion of his youth bouncing around from town to town. They followed with a few crowdpleasers such as “Dollar a Day” and “Tell My Mother I Miss Her So,” which was dedicated to “all the Mamas in the house.” 
It seemed that much of the crowd had made the journey to the show from the more rural areas of Illinois and Missouri. This was evidenced by the clapping and boot-stomping reaction to “Strange Feeling in the Air,” a song that, according to Bingham, is about growing up and living in a small town. Around the show’s midway point, things seemed to drag a bit as the band played a few slow-paced songs with which the majority of the crowd seemed unfamiliar. No one seemed to mind, however, as perhaps the melancholy nature of these tunes was congruent with the late-night hour and the dark, damp atmosphere that spilled in through the venue’s open doors. Recovering nicely, the band picked up the pace with a few crowd sing-a-longs and harmonica- and guitar-driven ballads. After ending strongly with “Southside of Heaven,” Bingham left the stage but responded to an encore request by performing two solos, followed by two pieces with the band. Their final number, “Bread and Water,” spoke of a traveling lifestyle and proved all too appropriate as the band shook a few hands, exited the stage and loaded their tour bus, preparing once again to hit the road.
Bingham undoubtedly surrounds himself with a positive energy that works to counterbalance the dark emotional content of much of his music. Seeing him perform was nothing short of a blessing; his talent leaves one with the impression that he’s been in the business for a hundred years. | Jessica Palmer

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