This is the fifth album by country star Ryan Bingham. In the space of ten years he has produced a mix of joyous country rock in songs like "Bread and Water" and yet time has also seen a much darker streak emerge. 2012's "Tomorrowland" was a sad treatise on the death of his very troubled parents and his award winning song "The Weary Kind" for the film "Crazy Heart" seemed to signal growing resignation to the exhaustion inflicted by touring not least the line "Your body aches/Playing your guitar and sweating out the hate/The days and the nights all feel the same".
Bingham's new album "Fear and Saturday Night" starts the tip the balance in the other direction. As he stated its time to "Quit looking in the rearview mirror and just start looking out the windshield". In terms of producing the record Bingham retreated to trailer in California and has usefully stripped back the approach on these new songs. Opener "Nobody knows my trouble" is a lovely spare country song with his cigarette stained raspy voice to the forefront. Others like the harmonica infused "Broken Heart Tattoo's" is a letter to his then unborn child and top notch songwriting. Alternatively "Top Shelf Drug" is a rather average rocker which is marginally salvaged by a swirling backbeat and a nasty guitar solo half way through. Bingham is on much more solid ground when he he sticks to knitting producing straightforward songs like the glorious "Island in the Sky" and one of the standouts "My diamond is too rough" a gently rolling country ballad full of latent regret and vivid imagery. Best of all is "Snow falls in June" which could become a country classic on the wonders of love's restorative power. Sadly others like "Gun fighting man" sees a reversion to a spaghetti western sound full of lyrical cliches whilst "Radio" is hewn from that genre of Americana based rock which artists like Jason Isbell and Justin Townes Earle can do in their sleep. Much better is the roaring Tejano workout on the rollicking "Adventures of You and Me"
Overall this a a very solid performance from Ryan Bingham and yet you sense his best album is still to come. There are enough great songs on "Fear and Saturday Night" to confirm his status and one of the leaders of a generation of turnpike troubadours. Nevertheless next time round perhaps a phone call should be made again to T Bone Burnett to bring more coherence and shape?
Review by Red on Black