Since I am 100% honest with you and would never tell you a lie, I will admit I had the impression that Mr. Bingham's music was slow and mournful. Yes, I have heard Bread and Water on the radio and I'm sure a couple of others, but the only thing I could think of were songs like Junky Star and The Weary Kind. While I recognize those songs as truly creative achievements on their own (oh, just an Academy Award, Golden Globe Award, and Critics' Choice Award for “Best Song” in 2010, the Americana Music Association Artist of the Year 2010, oh and a Grammy Award for "Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media" in 2011) , I could think of nothing less inviting than a late school night watching a doleful troubadour pick a guitar in one mournful soliloquy after another. Honestly, I would have rather been sleeping.
Wow. OK - Even I hear how that sounds. Give me time RB Super Fans, it gets better.
The band took the stage and I was surprised to see more than just Mr. Bingham, but in surveying them, I did not feel buoyed. Both the guitar and bass player appeared oblivious (high) and the fiddle player, a short stopped man with tight, curly grey hair showing from the bottom of his plain dark felt Oktoberfest hat, did not look promising. The drummer looked able, but infinitely bored. The only person I approved of was the stage guy wearing the wool button-up sweater and baseball cap. "You gotta love a man in a button up wool sweater and baseball cap." I said to my husband, who gave me that "Whatchou talkin' bout, Willis?!" out of the corner of his eye.
Come on. You know you love a man in a button-up wool sweater and a baseball cap. Hang in there, I said it would get better.
All things considered, this was the only thing I had gotten right up until now (Come on, you KNOW you love a man in a button-up wool sweater and a baseball cap!) and after such admissions, I'm fairly certain the state of New Mexico is in the process of drafting a writ of non-entry emblazoned my likeness and a dedicated group of citizens is on their way to my house to dispatch me in a hale of green chilies and turkey feathers. Not a bad way to go.
But let me tell you this my brothers and sisters - let me now confess. There, just over the border into Texas and upon the doorstep of Juarez, a new Ryan Bingham fan was born. In a dark corner of that 101 year old theater in El Paso, I proceeded to watch, enraptured, what I can only describe as the best rock and roll performance I have ever had the privilege of being present at. (Sorry Five Finger Death Punch and U2)
OK, so they are not a rock band in the same sense, but their live show with all band members present was anything but a doleful troubadour selling sadness. Maybe it was the new mexico caballeros standing next to us, their hats and fists in the air, all heads bobbing in time. Or maybe it was the guitar and bass player hitting those licks like a hammer, or maybe it was the man with the tight curly grey hair and Oktoberfest hat fiddling so hard and fast I thought his instrument would burst into a torch of sound and madness at any moment. Their show absolutely rocked and had a sound that I feel sure would have broad appeal.
Not only did it sound great, but it was mesmerizing to watch. Out from the stage would roll a raucous wall of sound that was returned by the clapping and cat calls of all the true Bingham Believers. The result was a wave of energy that rolled from the stage, to the crowd, and back to the stage, in a sort of infinite ebb and flow; First it was high then low, then ecstatic, then bright-eyed expectant waiting again. With the gospel of his guitar, I witnessed Mr. Bingham raise his fans into a worshipful frenzy of whoops and foot-stomps that put any 808 drum or Oklahoman to shame.
Hearing him on the radio, one cant help but note Mr. Bingham's raspy voice. In person, his tall and lean appearance only cements the vocal impression that he is a stovepipe filled with creosote, or a caliche riverbed, long dry in some southwest arroyo. If that be the case, then this show was a chimney fire, hot and bright and burning down the house. This performance was desert flood, raging waters tearing rocks from the earth and carrying away anything in it's path. This show was a force of nature.
Now, here I sit. For three days, somewhat bereft, I have played the part of Deep-Track-Dougie on YouTube. I have read articles and listened to several surreal stories about travels and cowboys and indians. I have developed a rather strong crush on Mr Bingham's dog, Boo. I have leanred of the esteemed careers of the band members, including the fiddling man in the oktoberfest hat, and the man in the wool sweater. These and a whole host of other facts! I have researched record players and I have an alarm set to try and buy an autographed copy of Mr. Bingham's Mescalito album when it goes on sale on Monday.
Perhaps most notable, is that when I listen to some of the more slow songs, I no longer hear them as doleful or sad. Instead, I am transported back to sounds of stomping feet and see a bemused smile beneath a black hat. The good feelings from that night envelop me wherever I am listening. In that moment, I am suffused with the pride of those New Mexicans as they watch and hear their native son come home to play for them here in the great desert Southwest. As the saying goes, the desert is alive, and that is certainly true of the talent and future of Mr. Bingham's career - something the Grammy folks managed to figure out long before I did.
I can only hope my admissions will suffice a sort of apology to the kind residents of New Mexico, the band, the ever faithful Boo, Mrs and Baby Bingham, and Mr Bingham himself. But if not, perhaps we can find time enough to enjoy a beer or two before they proceed to dispatch me unto my heavenly (or hellish) rewards. If my time should come I can only hope they play Hallelujah and hoist another round while my new vinyl spins.
Boo and Bingham signing Monday's purchase.