November 2007By Comments

Few have heard of, much less heard, Wishbone Saloon, the 2003 debut from West Texan Ryan Bingham. But those who have, including Terry Allen and Joe Ely, have fostered enough praise to help land Bingham on a major label. Mescalito (Lost Highway) arrives with a bushel of expectations, and it doesn’t disappoint. With a voice worn weary far beyond his 26 years, Bingham sings what he knows: Both a boyhood marked by one eviction after another and a career as a bull rider on the Southwest rodeo circuit seem to inform his every word. Aided by some of the best seventies blues-rock guitar this side of Exile on Main St. (including help from ex–Black Crowes guitarist Marc Ford, who also produces), Bingham lays the tryin’-to-make-a-livin’ lines on thick. Yet despite a few missteps, he spills it all with such raw conviction and refreshing “this is how things are” attitude (as opposed to “why me?”) that it’s easy to buy in. “There’s a poor boy livin’ on every block,” he sings on “Hard Times.” Just one problem: What’s he going to sing about if all this catches on?

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