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Singer-songwriter Ryan Bingham packs his emotions into ‘Junky Star’

Ryan Bingham has recorded an album of beautiful simplicity with his latest “Junky Star.”?

Working with veteran producer T-Bone Burnett, his songwriting and musicianship shine under the straightforward way the songs were presented, along with his fabulously in-sync backing band “The Dead Horses.”

Everyone working on this album wanted to accomplish one thing, an honest look at the musical mind of Ryan Bingham and they have accomplished that.

Many of the album’s strongest points belong to the way the songs were played on the record. In today’s modern studio you can auto-tune, and auto-correct every sound imaginable.?You can have an almost unlimited number of tracks and effects on top of the compositions.?

Many times the heart and emotion of a song can be lost underneath all of this studio trickery. Many musicians fall into this trap and their music’s power is lost as a result.? “Junky Star” wisely avoids this problem by presenting the songs in a simple way.?

The album opens with “The Poet” which could not start the album in a more simple way; all that is heard is Bingham strumming his guitar in a relaxed, easy way.?Then a muted harmonica joins him, then soon after the rest of the instruments ease into the song.? Bingham does not sing the first words until 40 seconds into the song.?Yet it tells you right away that you will be hearing musicians playing music in an authentic down to earth way.? Never does the album get away from this vision of Bingham’s songs just being what they are.

Bingham sings in a subtle nuanced way. He never needs to yell or scream to get the emotional meaning of his songs across.?It has a flow that is easy to listen to. His guitar playing has an equally pleasant feeling to it. He plays his guitar with a loose air that matches his voice perfectly. It gives his compositions a nice feeling of space, like a breath of fresh air in the morning.

Bingham’s personal style as a musician is not the only thing that gives “Junky Star” this spacious feel.

T-Bone Burnett has done a fantastic job of creating an album that augments the specific style that Bingham has.

It is many subtle touches that add up to a great portrait of Bingham’s songwriting. The way the backup guitarist only plays every few bars. The way the percussion is never too busy. The way both Bingham’s guitar and voice is mixed so you can hear every breath and note. It gives the songs power it would not have otherwise.

The strongest moments on “Junky Star” are when Bingham is writing about universal truths, the universal truths of loss love and feeling sad.

On “Yesterday’s Blues”, he sings, “I shook the hand of a weeping sparrow and heard the most beautiful tune, laid myself down upon a field of flowers and search through my dreams to find you.” It is these images that resonate the most.

On other songs on the album Bingham muddies his potent imagery with metaphors about death and “the road.” It is not something that hurts the songs. He gives such a great musical performance that the songs still have power.

But he’s musical at his best when his lyrics match the straightforward nature of his music.

The more rock and roll songs on the album never quite have the energy that is required for great rock and roll.

The entire approach to “Junky Star”, from Bingham vocal delivery, to the laid back style of the production and backup musicians, seemed a bit at odds with the more rock and roll tracks.

These tracks do not take up much of the album and they are completely listenable and fun, but they simply do not have the raw power that the slower tracks do.

“Junky Star” is an album that proves the power of recording a talented singer-songwriter with a producer and musicians that understand the best way to make great music is to let the singer-songwriter’s songs speak for themselves. That the best way to make powerful music is to present the songs in the way they were originally written.

Ryan Bingham will be performing at B Ryder’s in Bakersfield on Sept. 12.

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