RYAN BINGHAM "Mescalito" Lost Highway

Ryan Bingham, a talented young desperado.
Ryan Bingham, a talented young desperado. (By Coy Koehler)
Friday, February 8, 2008

RYAN BINGHAM"Mescalito"Lost Highway

ANYONE SEEKING TO invent a modern-day Texas troubadour couldn't do better than to replicate Ryan Bingham's life story: The son of an itinerant ranch hand who traveled around the Southwest, Bingham split from his family in his teens and became a rodeo rider. He began playing guitar to pass time on the circuit and ripened his voice with various drinkables and smokables.

The result is a man who can sing "I've been a desperado in West Texas for so long" and sound like he means it, even though he's only 26.

Perhaps the material on "Mescalito," Bingham's first national release, isn't entirely autobiographical. Maybe he didn't "grow a marijuana money tree," as he claims in "Dollar a Day," or have a truckstop waitress commend his smile, as he recounts in "Long Way From Georgia." But Bingham's lyrics feel true, even when he's just following the outlaw-cowboy script with "Don't Wait for Me," explaining (probably to some long-suffering woman) that "I'm wild."

The wildest thing about Bingham's neoclassical honky-tonk is his slide guitar, which drives such hard-times romps as "Bread and Water." When he recalls telling a trucker to "put the pedal to the metal," his slide is the ideal punctuation.

-- Mark Jenkins

Appearing with the Brindley Brothers and Raise Up Roof Beams on Thursday at DC9 (202-483-5000,http://www.dcnine.com). Doors open at 8:30.

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