Ryan Bingham's colorful path to his new album, Roadhouse Sun, includes leaving a broken New Mexico home at 14 for the competitive bull-riding circuit, learning to play guitar from a neighbor in a mariachi band at 17, writing universally personal songs, scoring a weekly gig at a Texas roadhouse and self-releasing a succession of no-fi/no-money recordings (Wishbone Saloon, Dead Horses and Lost Bound Rails, all out of print). By the time Lost Highway tapped him for his official debut, 2007's Mescalito, Bingham already enjoyed a large and loyal fan base.
Already touted by the likes of Joe Ely and Texas music legend Terry Allen, Bingham's fan club will likely grow exponentially with Roadhouse Sun, which finds Bingham at his gravelly best, peeling off rootsy rockers that can make Steve Earle take notes ("Day Is Done," "Hey Hey Hurray") and twangy ballads that can stop Willie Nelson in his tracks ("Rollin Highway Blues," "Snake Eyes"). Bingham also redirects his usual inward focus on Roadhouse Sun to shine a songwriting light on the political landscape with razor-sharp observations on songs like "Dylan's Hard Rain." Like the best top-shelf bourbon, Ryan Bingham delivers a powerful kick with a smoky, smooth finish. — Baker