There's a timeless quality to Ryan Bingham's best songs that drops them in the middle of the 1940s, 1970s or 2000s. It's one of the reasons he won an Oscar this year for "The Weary Kind," his plaintive theme from Crazy Heart. He's also a sharp songwriter. On his third album — on which he shares billing with his band the Dead Horses — Bingham lines up a statement of purpose. It's there in Junky Star's first two songs — "The Poet" and "The Wandering" — and it winds its way through stories of hope and despair, with emphasis on the latter. Those tracks set the album's tone: "The Poet" is an acoustic-strummed folk tale; "The Wandering" burns with Bingham's alt-country drawl, harmonica, and the Dead Horses kicking at the dusty trail. They eventually lead to "Depression," a modern-day Dust Bowl ballad about holding on to love during bad times. "I'd rather lay down in a pine box than to sell my heart to a fucking wasteland," Bingham seethes. It's the redemption Bingham is looking for throughout Junky Star. And it's a sentiment that spans generations.
Michael Gallucci writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].