This felt like an under-promoted show, certainly in the local Americana community, so it was a pleasant surprise to find large crowd in attendance at The Basement. Opening honours went to Little Georgia who certainly won the crowd over with their blend of soul, indie-folk and a dash of country. They’re a marketers dream with their image – and they certainly can sing and play but their songs often crossed the line between substance and overly sweet earnestness.
Last time Ryan Bingham swung through town he had a full band in tow and played and exceptional show at the Newtown Social Club. This time around he was in the dinner-and-show surrounds of the Basement, accompanied by an electric guitarist and fiddle player.
With a hat the size of Texas he sauntered unassumingly on-stage and began a night of dusty border songs. It’s the voice that gets you – that cracked, deep and weary drawl that seems to operate in it’s own slow-motion time zone. Bingham has a way of letting lines hang in the air and that stage presence drew the audience right into the palm of his hand from the outset.
In parts of the room, a less than stellar sound mix meant the fiddle was muddy and the electric guitar under-represented in the mix which only added to the feeling we were missing out on something without the energy and dynamics of a full band. Nonetheless, Bingham showcased his songwriting and playing abilities wonderfully – intertwining them with a raft of covers that included Springsteen’s Atlantic City, Steve Earle’s Galway Girl, a touching tribute to the recently departed Merle Haggard with his Mama Tried and the crowning glory of Townes Van Zandt’s Pancho & Lefty. Those songs showed just where Bingham comes from musically and though he was humble on-stage, he clearly knows his own songs such as Broken Heart Tattoos, Hallelujah and Nobody Knows My Trouble are right up there with the best.
This was a chance to experience some fine playing and singing from one of this generation’s finest country music songwriters, and for the most part it delivered, but can we please have the full band again next time.