An Incomplete History of Ryan Bingham's Place Between Laurel Canyon and Bad Blake

From the back of a horse in Stephenville, Texas to an Oscar for "The Weary Kind."

March 31, 1981 As further evidence that God is a woman, She melds the voices of Steve Earle and Waylon Jennings and bestows them on the soon-to-be-irresistible package that will grow up to be George Ryan Bingham. He spends his teens on the rodeo circuit, and later falls off a bull and onto a stage in Stephenville, Texas. Asked what advice he would offer his younger self, he replies, "Stay in school."

September 1995 No Depression magazine is launched. Another Ryan, who also goes by his middle name, and his band Whiskeytown release Faithless Street. Along with Uncle Tupelo, the Old 97's, and others, they do for alt-country what Sonic Youth and Nirvana had done for alt-rock in 1991. Influenced by but not beholden to tradition, Bingham's own musical tastes meld the contemporary and smartly referential. He's currently listening to Iron and Wine, Wilco, My Morning Jacket, and French electro-popsters Phoenix.

January 17, 2010 Bingham is sitting in a bar when it's announced he's won a Golden Globe for "The Weary Kind," his songwriting contribution to the soundtrack for the Jeff Bridges vehicle Crazy Heart. The song later wins Bingham his first Oscar. Its unexpected success comes with a dilemma: Bingham has had a career-defining moment while he is still defining what his career and musical legacy will be. He does not like being confined by the rhinestone shackles of his current genre. One of the biggest misconceptions about him, he states, is "that I'm a country artist. I think that a lot of times people see that I wear a cowboy hat and assume we are just a country band or whatever. It's become the endless pigeonhole."

February 18, 2011 Ryan Bingham brings his latest record, the highly acclaimed Junky Star, to Neumos in what may be your last chance to experience his rock salt–and–whiskey voice, mariachi-inspired guitar work, and irrepressible sexual magnetism in an intimate club setting.

music@seattleweekly.com

 
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