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Academy Award Winning Ryan Bingham and the Dead Horses Come to LIfe at BellyUp Aspen

Jamie Lynn Miller's picture

From Rodeo to Rock and RollFrom Rodeo to Rock and RollASPEN, CO “Thanks to everyone for coming out to see us. Hope your sunburned hangovers weren’t too painful on your pleasant drive home. Dodging the state troopers, drunks and left-over Roman Candles has forced me into buying this sweet new ride that I found over in South Central. I traded a six pack of Bud for the rims. It’s gonna be a good summer.” - Ryan Bingham, from whatever’s on his mind at binghammusic.com.

Winning a Golden Globe, Academy Award and Grammy for Best Original Song from the movie Crazy Heart hasn’t really changed much for gritty, down-and-out sounding Outlaw Country hero Ryan Bingham. True, he’s now far from down-and-out, but the raw, earthy, road and world-weary sentiment behind his music still rings true, despite his meteoric rise to center stage and into the spotlight.

Produced by T-Bone Burnett and recorded with backing band The Dead Horses, Bingham’s The Weary Kind provides the perfect accompaniment to Crazy Heart, and Jeff Bridges’ Oscar-winning performance as the legendary, self-destructive crooner “Bad Blake”, described by the Charleston City Paper as “Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle and every whiskey-swilling Texas singer-songwriter combined in one character.”

Yet despite the hoopla and resulting commercial success, Ryan Bingham and the Dead Horses remain grounded in the original spirit of their music. “None of us need a hit single or to become a famous rock star,” said Bingham during a post-Academy interview: “just being able to make a living playing music and not having to work ten hours digging holes…makes us fortunate enough.” He remains committed to writing and playing what feels most honest, with personal, first-hand lyrics about where he’s been and what he’s known along the way.
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In this same spirit of authenticity, playing Bridges’ backing band came quite naturally for Bingham and friends, as did the whiskey-filled lines and dialogue with Bridges’ character, Bad Blake, outside his motel room. Bingham, in snap shirt and blue jeans, timidly knocks on the door and requests a little rehearsal time with Bad Blake, just to go over the arrangements before the show; “it would sure mean a lot to the band, sir.” Bad Blake grumbles a bit, whiskey bottle-interruptus, more concerned with his brown bag of booze back in the room than the evening’s upcoming performance at the local bowling alley.

Indeed, for Ryan Bingham and the Dead Horses, it doesn’t get more authentic than performing at a bowling alley. In the September 2010 issue of Vanity Fair, Bingham elaborates, with a laugh:”We are a bowling alley band. That’s what I told the director when he asked us about doing it. We’ve played more bowling alleys than I can count so yeah, that scene came pretty naturally.”

The 20-something has been called a cross between Springsteen, Stephen Stills and “a 50-year old Tom Waits”, while Rolling Stone Magazine has famously dubbed him “Steve Earle’s dad”.

His voice echoes the sounds of tough living, running ragged and hard-won moments of happiness, while songs like Dollar a Day, Hard Times and The Weary Kind, paint a picture of a life lived and lessons learned, far beyond his 29 years. To a large extent, Bingham’s art imitates his life.

Born in Hobbs, New Mexico and raised in both New Mexico and Texas, his grandfather was a rancher and his uncle was a bull rider. Bingham rode in their footsteps, so to speak, becoming a rodeo bull rider himself and dropping out of high school at age 17 to pursue the junior rodeo circuit. He lived with relatives, out of his car and on the road, drifting like West Texas tumbleweed across many Southwest border towns. In 2006, while playing music at his uncle’s saloon, the Halfway Bar, he crossed paths with the creatives behind Lost Highway Records, home to Wilco, the Jayhawks, Elvis Costello, Ryan Adams, Van Morrison and Willie Nelson, respectively. Lost Highway signed Bingham and 2007’s critically-acclaimed Mescalito introduced his raw, honest craftsmanship to an eager listening public.
Lost Highway DebutLost Highway Debut
In describing his sound, Bingham resists the country label so quickly flung up onstage. “People thought we were a country band because I wear a cowboy hat,” Bingham told Vanity Fair; “a lot of times people don’t listen to your music; they just see what you’re wearing and put a stamp on it…but we always felt we were a rock and roll band.” Raised on the music of Waylon and fellow West Texas troubadour Willie Nelson, Bingham also cites Marshall Tucker, Bob Wills, Dylan, the Stones and Led Zeppelin as essential players in his musical palette.

2010’s Junky Star, Bingham’s third Lost Highway release, represents more of this broad spectrum of sound and the deep, underlying meaning behind his music. “Junky refers to junkyards, things that have been beat down…the album’s about finding beauty in what’s rough around the edges,” Bingham has said of the record: “I’ve always been passionate about the homeless, kids living on the streets, and what people do just to survive.” His socially conscious leanings are further manifest on his website, binghammusic.com, through links to Farm Aid, Heal the Bay, Surfrider’s Foundation and Stand Up for Kids.

Up next, Ryan Bingham and the Dead Horses will grace the 700-acre farm of this June’s Bonnarroo in Manchester, Tennessee; but first, an intimate, amazing opportunity to catch Bingham and band raw, honest and live, this Saturday at BellyUp Aspen.

For more info, www.binghammusic.com.