Album Review: Ryan Bingham – American Love Song

Photo Credit: Anna Axster

The award-winning singer-songwriter is releasing his highly-anticipated new record tomorrow. 

Out 15 February via Axster Bingham Records, American Love Song is Ryan Bingham’s sixth studio album. Co-produced with renowned guitarist/artist Charlie Sexton (Bob Dylan), the LP was recorded at Arlyn Studios and Public Hi-Fi in Austin, TX with additional recording at Matter Music in Los Angeles.

Bingham never really set out to be a musician. He grew up in New Mexico and Texas, riding bulls on the local rodeo circuit. His mother bought him a guitar when he was 16 years old, and a neighbor taught him a mariachi tune. When he grew tired of playing the only song he knew, Bingham began penning his own music, discovering the writing process to be a therapeutic coping mechanism for dealing with the tumultuousness of his upbringing. His first performances were informal affairs in the backseats of cars with friends on the way to rodeos, where he was competing professionally on the weekends. Before he knew it, he had more gigs playing guitar than riding bulls.

The singer’s first new LP in four years, American Love Song, sees the songwriter blending personal experiences with his cultural influences to create a unique sound that will take you back in time. Album opener Jingle And Go does this wonderfully and immediately has you hooked on this album. The following Wolves deals with the painful memories of his youth. But it’s also a sympathetic response to the high school students turned gun-control activists, in the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, contending with men and women questioning their integrity on social media.

On Pontiac Bingham channels some more of that rockabilly and soul influence, taking us back to the 70’s with his sound in the best way possible. This track, in fact, this whole record is some of the finest old school rock’n’roll this planet has seen in a long time. You could put American Love Story on a record player and swear you found it in your parents’ record collection and people would probably believe you.

Some of the tracks take on a bit more of a country character such as Lover Girl – like Willie Nelson and the Stones had a beautiful musical baby. Similar to this is Beautiful And Kind with more of a touch of Johnny Cash and we are obsessed! The finger-picking and howling vocals with a Southern drawl is absolute gold, we can’t get enough.

In What Would I’ve Become Bingham talks about what life taught him, and as cliche as it may sound, it’s just as profound considering his history.  After making his recording debut on Lost Highway Records (UMG) and touring hard across the US on his first couple of albums, Bingham was actually in the back of a van in North Dakota when he wrote The Weary Kind, a song that became the centerpiece of the 2010 film Crazy Heart starring Jeff Bridges. It earned him an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, and a Grammy, and skyrocketed him into the spotlight. Amidst the incredible success, though, he was also dealing with the tragic deaths of his mother, an alcoholic, and his father, who took his own life.

The acoustic goodness of Wolves, the first single off Bingham’s new record, wraps itself nicely around his raspy vocals and the intriguing lyrics about standing your ground no matter what.

Blue, on the other hand, is sounding big in its own right with big guitar riffs and a chorus that’ll give you goosebumps. Tracks like this one make it no surprise that Bingham’s previous songs have been chosen for movie soundtracks –  we can absolutely see this being used in a dramatic love story, maybe with a bit of rain in an open field? You get the idea.

Every track on American Love Song is stunning, and every single one will surprise you in a new way. Whether it’s Hot House’s super bluesy attitude or the gorgeous softness of Stones. His America is another manifestation of that songwriting talent where Bingham strongly criticizes the social and political struggles, especially when it comes to gun violence. It’s hard-hitting message, dressed up and gentle guitar picking and desperate vocals. We’re not crying, you are.

The album finishes off with the sultry Blues Lady, as Bingham once again manages to perfectly marry blues and folk, and leave us all absolute puddles.

The losses that put Bingham in a dark tunnel are the core of American Love Song. It took a while to crawl his way out, with the help of his wife, Anna Axster, and some inner soul-searching. American Love Song takes all his influences and unites them in Ryan Bingham’s best, most fully realized record to date.

Ryan will play a solo acoustic tour in Europe and the UK this spring (UK dates below) and will return in the summer with his full band to play Black Deer Festival.

26 April – London, Union Chapel
28 April – Glasgow, Oran Mor