Junky Star - Ryan Bingham & the Dead Horses
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Generally favorable reviews - based on 11 Critics What's this?

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  • Summary: Songwriter Ryan Bingham has grown tremendously on this third full-length. Barely 30 years old, his previous work showed promise but carried the excess expected of a novice. Bingham won both a Golden Globe and an Oscar for "The Weary Kind," the theme song from the film Crazy Heart. The song was produced by T-Bone Burnett, creating a partnership extended on Junky Star. Bingham and his Dead Horses--drummer Matthew Smith, bassist Elijah Ford, and guitarist Corby Schaub, prove the song was no fluke. The sound is pure Americana; these 12 lyrically sophisticated yet direct songs, reflect a host of tense, lost, desperate, individuals dreaming the same dark dream, one that suggests that we are all growing tenser with the times. Bingham has trimmed his songwriting to the bone, while learing to use metaphor and metonomy like a veteran. A former rodeo rider, he wears his influences proudly: Guthrie, Dylan, Van Zandt, Ely, Earle, Clark, and Hubbard. He begins with a sandblasted vision of America in "the Poet." Amid acoustic guitars, a lonesome harmonica ,restrained electric and bass drum, Bingham's whiskey-smoked vocal offers a lyric theme the entire album turns on: "As I keep walking, people keep talking/About things they've never seen or done/Homeless sleep in the park, lovers kiss in the dark/Me, I keep moving on through time." Time is suspended as Bingham's protagonists tell stories from the road (some of them bone-chilling), from America's past and present, physically and psychologically. Rootlessness as peace of mind is portrayed via country rock in "The Wandering," but the feeling in "Strange Feeling In The Air," the title track, a deeply moving acoustic murder ballad (they are strewn throughout the album), and the angry uptempo "Depression," reflect a contradiction: constant movement is the key to survival, not necessarily peace. "Hallelujah" is another murder ballad with a disturbing twist. "Lay My Head On The Rail," is pure folk poetry illustrated by a lone acoustic guitar. The blues in "Hard Worn Trail," are rooted in poverty worry, strained, broken relationships resulting in the search for comfort. It doesn't come anywehre on Junky Star. "All Choked Up Again," set to Waylon Jennings' brand of outlaw country closes it out by mining the existential darkness deeper. Bingham is unflinching, but his songs hold out for a glimmer of something else. The only real consolation Junky Star offers is that no one need feel alone in her or his desperation-this is a true accomplishment. Bingham has delivered a set of songs that mirrors our uncertain times in a musical language that doesn't unduly distort or romanticise them. ~ Thom Jurek Expand
  • Record Label: Lost Highway
  • Genre(s): Country, Folk, Americana, Contemporary Singer/Songwriter, Contemporary Folk, Alternative Country-Rock, Country-Folk
  • More Details and Credits »
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 6 out of 11
  2. Negative: 0 out of 11
  1. This moody, recession-themed collection from Bingham--who won an Oscar this year for a song from Crazy Heart--is unlikely to boost anyone's morale during our current downturn, but Junky Star might make some folks feel less alone.
  2. Bingham has delivered a set of songs that mirrors our uncertain times in a musical language that doesn't unduly distort or romanticise them.
  3. Bingham's writing is filled with stark images and canny observations, which is evident on such tracks as "Self-Righteous Wall" and album opener "The Poet." Look for this gifted young artist's star to keep rising.
  4. The collaboration works, not least because emphasis is placed on the grounded heave of Mr. Bingham's fine working band, the Dead Horses: Corby Schaub on guitar and mandolin, Elijah Ford on bass and Matt Smith on drums.
  5. 60
    T Bone's unfussy production is key, allowing Bingham's rusted voice to take stage centre. [Oct 2010, p.89]
  6. Award-winning country from the school of hard knocks. [Oct. 2010, p. 103]
  7. It's an unfortunate reminder that even on an album populated by seedy characters and hard roads, Bingham still struggles with the devil in the details.

See all 11 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 0 out of
  2. Mixed: 0 out of
  3. Negative: 0 out of