Ryan Bingham

Shortly after the late 2010 release of Junky Star, then newly minted Oscar winner Ryan Bingham was vocal about his confusion over what he saw as fans' need to label his work as country. He went so far as to suggest that it was merely his ragged cowboy hat that gave many listeners the impression his catalog was full of country tunes.

At first blush, such a thought seemed relatively silly. After all, Bingham gained worldwide acclaim for a song in Crazy Heart, a movie about, well, a country singer. On top of that, his excellent breakthrough release, Mescalito, showcased a variety of styles, with the predominant vibe being decidedly country.

But when one looks back on Bingham's last two studio albums, Bingham's distancing from a strict country label becomes much more understandable. The blistering Marc Ford-powered Southern rock collection Road House Sun and the Academy Award following Junky Star, a folky set of tunes produced by T-Bone Burnett that reminded more than a few folks of Nebraska-era Springsteen, displayed a depth that should make simple categorization tougher than many may like it to be.

Sometimes the truth isn't as simple as the surface suggests.

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Kelly Dearmore