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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