Stripped to the T-Bone

Junky Star gets to the roots of Ryan Bingham’s sound

Previously on Ryan Bingham plays Omaha: The then-soon-to-be Oscar-nominated singer-songwriter and his backing band, the Dead Horses, played a loose, fun set that ran nearly two hours, thus rewarding the patronage of a light Sokol Underground crowd that numbered somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 heads. It’s a show Bingham says he can’t recall after a whirlwind of success that has seen him release a T-Bone Burnett-produced album, write songs for the Jeff Bridges movie Crazy Heart and win an Oscar for his song “The Weary Kind,” featured in that film. “Everything has happened so fast. It’s hard to get a grasp on things at times,” the Texas-bred Bingham says. This time around, Bingham is likely to find a much bigger crowd, drawing people who have heard his music since that Sokol show and those who didn’t even hear about the blink-and-you-miss-it July 2009 concert. Bingham says the soundtrack’s success has created lots of opportunities for him and his band, though he hasn’t changed his approach to making music. “It’s been great, man. It’s been a hell of an opportunity,” he says. It was because of working on Crazy Heart that Bingham got to work with T. Bone Burnett. Bingham says the duo had such a great time doing those songs that they booked additional studio time to work on Bingham’s songs with the full band. Those quick sessions resulted in 2010’s Junky Star. Junky Star continues the mostly-acoustic nature of Bingham’s Crazy Heart material. The Dead Horses play on all but a few acoustic tracks. Bingham says the album definitely had “a guitar and a song” sort of feel to it. Despite the seeming differences between Junky Star and Bingham’s first two albums, both produced by ex-Black Crowes guitarist Marc Ford, the set-up was essentially the same, he says. 2009’s Roadhouse Sun saw the band setting up in a room and pretty much tracking live, just as the band did with Burnett. However, the approach was all about keeping things simple during the Junky Star sessions. The laid-back feel to recording and songwriting was at the heart of making the new album, he says. “That’s about the only difference,” Bingham says. Bingham says he also wasn’t daunted by working with Burnett, who has made a name by producing soundtracks and by taking legends like Robert Plant, Elvis Costello, B.B. King and Willie Nelson back to their roots. Bingham says Burnett is such a nice, laid-back guy that it made him and his band feel at home. Plus, the tight recording timeframe made it so the sessions were pretty much all about making music. Bingham’s songs have touched upon all aspects of his life, including life near the border in Laredo, Texas. From that view, he has seen his own version of the drug war, which has led to lines referencing “a marijuana money tree” and truckloads of marijuana shipped over the border. While Bingham says legalization makes some sense to him, he’s not about to become Willie Nelson in terms of advocating for it. Instead, the views come more from just seeing what has happened around him. “It’s the same stuff you see in the newspaper everyday,” he says. For now, his focus is on the road, though Bingham says he has a growing cache of new songs for record number four. Being on the road is nothing new for Bingham, who worked the rodeo circuit and bull riding before turning to songwriting. “The road is what it is. It’s kind of a love-hate relationship,” Bingham says. He says the band is enjoying the shows, though, as they draw from all three of Bingham’s records. There’s an obvious difference between the sound of Junky Star and the sound the band creates on stage. “It’s kind of a mix of everything. We’re still kind of loud live,” Bingham says. Ryan Bingham w/ Liam Gerner play the Waiting Room Lounge, 6212 Maple St., Tuesday, March 8 at 9 p.m. Tickets are $15. For more information, visit

posted at 08:05 pm
on Friday, March 04th, 2011


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