Fear and Saturday Night by Ryan Bingham (Album of the Week)

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Album: Fear and Saturday Night

Artist: Ryan Bingham

About: 12 songs; 53 Minutes

Year: 2015

Choice: DJR Blogging

Dan and I didn’t exchange Valentine’s gifts this year, but this week’s album felt like a romantic exchange. Dan writes his own love letter to this album over on his blog and talks some about our introduction to this musician. This album feels different from our first meeting, but it feels as real with the grit of life as ever.

We saw Ryan Bingham in 2009 in a basement bar in Breckinridge where we danced and fell in love with a new act which we had serendipitously came upon. The second time we saw Ryan Bingham was after he won his Academy Award for the song The Weary Kind and he was opening for Willie Nelson at Red Rocks. Between then and now, I haven’t lost my pleasure in listening to Ryan Bingham, but it hasn’t really been stoked. Listening to his new album, Fear and Saturday Night, stoked the Ryan Bingham flame for me. I think a lot of it has to do with how honest all of this felt.

I have a thing for gravelly voiced singers with drawls, and, lordy me!, does Ryan Bingham epitomize that genre. There are a couple songs on this album where you might be afraid that his voice will not make it through. But it does, and he has himself an excellent album that is personal and real, and he shows up as a found man.

The album opens with Nobody Knows My Trouble. When Dan shared this album with me, the songs weren’t in order. I tried to figure out what song would open it, and I correctly picked this one. The song’s message is a great dichotomy of happily saying he is living the good life, but everyone needs to back off, and don’t go thinking they have him and his path figured out. And he does it in the style of a bouncy cowboy song. That line where he tells people to just stay away couldn’t sound more friendly!

As an album that we listened to during the week leading up to Valentine’s Day, this seemed a perfect choice. Were I Mrs. Bingham, there is much here that would make me swoon, but his way of doing it is to maintain the heart of a bad boy. In Fear and Saturday Night he almost mournfully sings of what he can’t escape from: But I don’t fear nothing except for myself /  So I’m gonna go out to raise me some hell/ I’ll take my chances, I was born to run wild / Hell, it’s Saturday night, I’m going to town. And he counters that need to run wild with his good intentions on Darlin where he sings let’s dance on top of the wire / I’ll try to keep myself in line.

There is a lot of mellowness on this album, but he is such a good poet that you can’t cast them off as sappy songs of a dude in love and about to have a baby. Each song gives you something different. There is love and struggle and hope and happiness. And there are songs that bring back that rocking sound that he pounded out in that bar in Breckinridge. Top Shelf Drug is one of those – nasty guitar licks and lots of cymbal crashing.

This was a great reintroduction to an artist that I had pushed in the back of my listening line. His life has obviously taken many turns since we claimed him as a find back in 2009, and where he seems settled now feels balanced and creative. Well done!

Next up: Father John Misty’s I Love You, Honeybear

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