With a dust-caked, desiccated voice that at 28 is already comparable to Tom Waits's and a hard-scrabble sound that would be a perfect accompaniment for one of Annie Proulx's western stories or a Coen brothers film, singer-songwriter-guitarist Ryan Bingham is a 21st-century honky-tonk hero as genuine as a belt of whiskey before noon. His gritty tales of life on the frontier—literal, emotional, and with a newfound focus on the political—are punched up with wiry guitars that sting like a panhandle hailstorm and are fueled by a cinematic life story. Bingham Drifted throughout the west Texas-New Mexico border area, on his own by his mid-teens, earning his way riding bulls on the rodeo circuit, and eventually falling in with the likes of Joe Ely, Terry Allen, and the Texas songwriters guild. Bingham's new Roadhouse Sun (Lost Highway) is even better than 2007's terrific Mescalito, scrambling up hard folk, country, rock, and roadhouse blues, lacing even the slow tunes with world-weary intensity. For politics he riffs on another troubadour's aged but pertinent warnings in "Dylan's Hard Rain." For raw-boned poignancy, he seems to tap the spirit of Townes Van Zandt on "Rollin Highway Blues." For adrenalin, there's the snarling, Stones-like "Hey Hey Hurray." Meanwhile the rollicking "Tell My Mother I Miss Her So" seems like equal parts Woody Guthrie and Steve Earle. That's pretty heady company, and no hyperbole. With Jesse Dayton. 18+.
Mon., July 13, 7 p.m., 2009