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Ryan Bingham

Mescalito (Lost Highway)

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Ryan Bingham lived the hard life: without a home since his teens, finding work on ranches, and singing songs of sadness. Americana fans have heard this story many times, and it's easy to dismiss Bingham's debut album, Mescalito, as a slab of clichéd silliness — especially when he sings in both English and Spanish about desperados, trains, and even "working for a dollar a day." And while his Gregg Allman-like growl gets a bit old after the third tune, it's the kid's very brashness and absurd self-mythologizing that make his music groove in ways alt-country rarely does. Bingham also has an ear for delicious sounds — a percolating wah-wah and droning fiddles buttress "Sunshine," a metronomic banjo powers "Ghost of Travelin' Jones," etc. But at 14 songs, Mescalito is too long. Bingham isn't that good a songwriter, at least not yet.

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