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Album review: Ryan Bingham's 'Roadhouse Sun'

June 1, 2009 |  6:27 pm

BINGHAM_240_ If you're drifting through the desert and you stop at a honky tonk where they serve Lone Star beer in mason jars, Ryan Bingham and the Dead Horses is exactly the band you want to see rattling every fixture in the room. The rambling "Roadhouse Sun," Bingham's follow-up to 2007's "Mescalito," rifles through the dirtier pages of the American songbook -- outlaw country, roadhouse blues, wind-whipped folk -- while blowing it wide open.

The waltzing and rollicking "Dylan's Hard Rain" reconsiders Bob Dylan's 1962 plaintive song as "fair warning" for a world where the "religious folk made it to Congress." The beautifully deconstructed "Change Is," clocking in at more than seven minutes, is like a track off of Wilco's "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot," if it had been doused in gasoline. "Hey Hey Hurrah" is begging to be used in the Coen Brothers' next Texas heist movie.

Occasionally, there's the odd phrase that feels a little contrived, and Bingham's sandpaper-soaked-in-whiskey voice sometimes broadcasts a hard-scrabble life as unsubtly as a blinking neon sign outside a peep show. But at 28, he has the stamina to hang on well into his old age, when his voice will sound as fittingly elemental as a lightning storm in the Texas Panhandle.

-- Margaret Wappler

Ryan Bingham
"Roadhouse Sun"
Lost Highway Records
Three stars

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