Bingham and company offer highs and lows 

A review of Ryan Bingham and the Americans at the Music Farm

Ryan Bingham and the Dead Horses, the Americans
Music Farm
May 28

With white T-shirts tucked into rolled-up jeans and their '50s hair combed and gelled to perfection, the Americans looked the part Saturday night at the Music Farm. They sounded it too, with a sort of progressive rockabilly sound that was undeniably cool, and, at time, seemed to erase the last 50 years. Due largely to the depth and old-time authenticity of singer Patrick Ferris' voice and the power of his presence, they delivered an energetic opening set.

The unsigned Los Angeles-based band, on their first national tour supporting Ryan Bingham and the Dead Horses, mostly played songs from their recent self-titled EP, but as the growing audience got into the show, Ferris announced an oddity. "This is an old song we found from 1945," he said. "From a group called the Evangelist Singers." The song, "Tell Me Why You Like Roosevelt," recounted FDR's death and legacy in long detail, and the band's mix of swagger and decency fit it perfectly.

After a long set break, Ryan Bingham jaunted onstage to big cheers and got right to it. His band powered the show with loud, Texas-style rock behind Bingham's soft gravel voice. "Depression," off 2010's Junky Star, was an early electric highlight, while "Tell My Mother I Miss Her So," from 2009's Roadhouse Sun, showcased a good balance with its plaintive, acoustic sound.

While guitarist Corby Schaub shredded the Texas finger-slide sound on the harder songs, the band was best on acoustic songs like "Hallelujah," which had the crowd swooning. The lyrics were less vague than other songs, giving the audience something to hold onto as he sang, as opposed to groping through old cliches. Finishing off the set with his classic "Southside of Heaven," Bingham had the crowd stomping and clapping before he and Schaub drew out the song with great solos.

A lot has changed for Bingham following his phenomenal Oscar-winning song, "The Weary Kind," from last year's Crazy Heart. While I'm sure he's sick of it by now, he never played it, and his show lacked another song with the same level of pathos.

The band was tight, but they seemed a little too rehearsed and, occasionally, lifeless. They never strained for something the way Ferris and the opening band did. It was almost too easy for them to come out, deliver their 90-minute set with every note pre-planned, before moving on to the next city and doing it again. And even worse, they never came out for an encore, a cardinal sin for a $20 show.


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