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Ryan Bingham & The Dead Horses

Roadhouse Sun – 2009 (Lost Highway)

Reviewed by Andrew W. Griffin

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CDs by Ryan Bingham & The Dead Horses

Not yet 30, Americana singer Ryan Bingham sounds as if he could be a decade or so older by the sound of his whiskey-drenched, weather-beaten voice, sort of a sandpapery growl that reminds one of something snatched out of an Alan Lomax folk music archive.

Following up 2007's borderlands epic "Mescalito," Bingham brings his band the Dead Horses into the spotlight here. With the help of producer Marc Ford, formerly of the Black Crowes, Bingham and the boys tear through 12 rock-flavored country-folk songs like they were born to play these songs.

You'd swear you were hearing a younger, grittier Bruce Springsteen on the opener Day Is Done until it goes into territory trod by the likes of Waylon Jennings and Steve Earle. It's gritty country-rock and is reflective of what the rest of the disc has to offer. Backed by a more jangly folk-rock sound, Dylan's Hard Rain with its pro-pot political overtones, chugs along like a train through the Heartland. The same could be said of the harmonica-heavy Country Roads.

The stripped down Tell My Mother I Miss Her So, with its mandolin and steady drum beat, sounds as though it was recorded live in one take. Other tracks, like Hey Hey Hurray, show Bingham at his more playful, while the trippy Bluebird seems to drift along in a strange haze of dreamy desire.

"Roadhouse Sun" may not be polished country music, but for those tempted to take that dusty, tumbleweed-choked side road, Ryan Bingham and the Dead Horses are willing to lead the way.