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Review: Ryan Bingham at Birdy's

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Birdy’s, March 10

Ryan Bingham cruised through his set Thursday just like he knocks back his whiskey: coolly and nonchalantly. Bingham and The Dead Horses packed Birdy’s to its fire-code threshold, playing to a muss of men in coon-skin caps who crooned the words to each song, as well as some girls in halter-tops and guys in polo shirts.

The majority of the setlist was taken from his most recent release on Lost Highway Records, Junky Star. Bingham’s smoky vocals took on new life in the electric setting, sounding richer and more purposeful than in recorded versions.

Surprisingly absent from Bingham’s set was even the slightest innuendo that a movie called Crazy Heart ever existed. (Bingham co-wrote songs with T-Bone Burnett for the 2010 Oscar winner.) I would have bet the title to my car that he was going to play The Weary Kind for his encore. Instead he played a couple of full-band album tracks, much to the delight of an enthusiastic crowd.

The New Mexico native has perfected the art of working-class drinking music, playing simple melodies that manage to sound both catchy and unfamiliar. One can imagine seeing Bingham while sitting on a dive bar stool, alongside a few regulars and before three sifters of shitty bourbon.

Alas, the room was packed, with no barstools to be found and no escape from cigarette smoke, which made the nine-hundred-some guitar solos feel excessive to an asthmatic. Still, Corby Schaub’s work on the mandolin made those redundant guitar solos entirely forgivable.

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