A West Texas Son Shines
A West Texas Son Shines
Troubadour Ryan Bingham infuses his music with the
mystique of West Texas. BY NICK PATTERSON
He grew up all around West Texas, but Ryan Bingham
first saw the Marfa Lights just a few years ago.
Those mysterious moving lights, long the subject
of lore and conjecture by Texans who have spotted
them intermittently for more than a century, grabbed
the attention of Ryan - a young singer-songwriter
with an old soul - during a wee-hours trip into Marfa.
"We stopped in at that little viewing station right
on the side of the road," he says. "It was a really
clear night, and there were eight or nine lights
scattered across the horizon. They would fade in and
out, and they were moving up and down. It was the
strangest thing I'd ever seen."
Ryan and his fiancee, Anna Axster, filmed the video for
"Southside of Heaven," a cut from his 2007 label debut,
Mescalito, in and around Marfa. Ryan revisits the West
Texas landscape - its distant mountains and small country
towns - on his new album, Roadhouse Sun.
"Because I grew up in that kind of area, I always
have that imagery in the back of my mind whenver I
write songs," he says. "There's not really a whole
lot out there but dust and wind, and it leaves a lot
of room for imagination, you know?"
Sung in Ryan's scratchy gravel road of a voice, the songs
on Roadhouse Sun ring with the authenticity that comes
from a life lived hard. What other kind of guy would
name his backup band The Dead Horses?
TEXAS SONGWRITERS: Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, Terr Allen,
Joe Ely, and Danny Terry. "Mainly it's just growing up in
that part of the world - the songs they sing really come
from there. I relate to it. Music gives you an identity."
WEST TEXAS TUNE: "Pancho and Left" sung by Willie Nelson.
"At one point on the road, when you're kind of drifting
around, that song hits you."
KIND OF MUSIC: Folk. "I'm more of a fan of the lyrics and
the words. I like the stories and the feelings and the
emotions that come with teh words - the way they describe
different periods in our history."
PLACES TO HEAR HIS KIND OF MUSIC:
-Anderson Fair, Houston
-The Picker's Circle at Lukenbach
General Store, Luckenbach ("It's
where Vietnam vets and younger
guys too" come to play, says Ryan)
-Cattlelacs Calfry Cookoff each
September, near Austin
PAYING VENUES TO PLAY IN TEXAS: The Continental Club, Austin;
Ray's Bar, Marfa; and Gruene Hall, New Braunfels