Ryan Bingham Song Tournament: Day VIII Elite Eight

ryan-bingham-2by: Thomas D. Mooney

On to the next one. We’re down to the Elite Eight. Not necessarily the best eight, but the eight who have made the trek undefeated.

Note: Just to avoid any confusion on how Artist Song Tournaments are done, they’re ranked/seeded by what we deem as most popular (and most known) to least popular (and least known). That’s the driving force in how songs get seeded. When it comes to bracket match-ups though, they are decided on which song we think is better (Based on lyrics, melody, instrumentation, and overall greatness). If we didn’t do it this way, there really wouldn’t be a point in doing the tournament. This is the most vital and important information you must understand to fully comprehend ASTs. 

Tuesday: 16 vs 17 Seeds
Wednesday: First Round of Sangre de Cristo Region
Thursday: First Round of Devil’s Backbone Region
Friday: First Round of Cowboys in Mexico Region
Monday: First Round of Hippies in Austin Region
Thursday: Second Round of Sangre de Cristo and Devil’s Backbone Regions
Tuesday: Second Round of Hippies in Austin and Cowboys in Mexico Regions
Thursday: Sweet Sixteen Match-ups All Regions
Friday: Elite Eight All Regions (Today)


Sangre de Cristo Region

1. Southside of Heaven
3. The Poet

I’ve never really thought of it before, but “The Poet” really does open Junky Star similarly to how “Southside of Heaven” did for Mescalito. It’s guitar with some harmonica that are both deeply rooted in traditional folk and blues. Where Mescalito was Bingham’s personal observations every day encounters and life on the open highway, Junky Star attempts to be more of an observation on the struggles of the working class in Modern America and how they coincide with The Great Depression. Obviously, Junky Star came after Bingham had just about as much commercial and critical success as possible (See “The Weary Kind” below). With that, I think it’s safe to say there’s going to be some disconnect–and it’s not just for Bingham, but anyone who “makes it” in whichever field they’re in. With “The Poet,” Bingham really was able to find a character in which he was able to do as good a job of reconnecting with the working class as anyone out there has. 

But, there’s so much honesty in “Southside of Heaven.” Lyrically, it’s an amazing song. It’d have been a great song had he ghostwritten it for anyone. Even Toby Keith or the Eagles. But it’s all in the voice. It’s not even that what he’s doing is describable or much different than what he’s done since. But there’s a level of desperation and agony in that voice that’s not been matched many times since. There’s something throughout its’ entirety that you know he isn’t just singing each verse, but he’s living each as well. He’s connected and living each and every word of that song. It runs through his veins. 

Winner:  Southside of Heaven

Hippies in Austin Region

1. The Weary Kind
6. Hard Times

You’re always going to hear the eye rolls and pffts each time “The Weary Kind” advances. They’re all saying “The Weary Kind is just all fluff. It’s the most overrated song in the Bingham catalog.” That it’s all superficial and gilded with dishonesty. It’s a travesty that we’ve bought into the bullshit. It’s all hoopla and hype and buzz created by the mainstream media to buy more songs on iTunes and ticket stubs and DVDs for Crazy Heart. It’s false idols and no better than anything Keith Urban or Blake Shelton has ever put out. 

[Rolls eyes]. I’ll grant you, it’s probably the most overrated song in the Bingham catalog. I’ll give you that. Everyone’s annoying cousin, grandmothers, aunts and uncles who have never heard of Bingham prior, are all of a sudden in the Ryan Bingham Fan Club. Yes. We get it. But really, when you scrape all the outside noise surrounding “The Weary Kind” hurricane, you find the eye of the storm. And guess what? It’s a pretty great fucking song. 

I must say, “Hard Times” has had a hell of a run. Elite Eight isn’t anything to turn your nose up at. Personally, I think there’s probably more deserving songs that could have put up a better fight and maybe even beat “The Weary Kind” here, but it’s certainly not a repugnant that it’s made it this far. It’s a song that really helped spark a revolution and revival of honest songwriters. “Hard Times” wasn’t about selling records or becoming a household name. It’s about writing what you want and writing what you know.

Winner: The Weary Kind

Devil’s Backbone Region

9. Never Far Behind
3. Dylan’s Hard Rain

I think the general opinion will always be that Bingham’s most sincere, most honest, and most intimate moment as a songwriter and artist will be summed up in “Southside of Heaven,” “The Weary Kind,” or for you deep cuts kids, “Best of Me.” People will always flock to those songs as being the most genuine Bingham. If you’re going to cry during a song, it’s one of those for the most part. What gets overlooked though is “Never Far Behind.” And maybe that’s because it’s such a new song. Maybe it’ll be considered in time. Regardless, it doesn’t really matter what the popular opinion is,  because it is Bingham with honest eyes. 

I think we love to think of Bingham as this walking contradiction in ways. He’s both this real tough motherfucker who drinks whiskey, wrangles cattle in his spare time, writes songs about the life in the sepia-toned southwest and then lives the songs out. Hard as a rock and somehow larger than life. A Greek (Or Texas?) God walking around like the son of Townes Van Zues. Yet, he’s also this emotional, heart on his sleeve songwriter who’s not afraid to step out and be vulnerable. It’s very humanizing. That’s what you get with “Never Far Behind” and “Dylan’s Hard Rain.” These two Bingham’s battling it out for the Devil’s Backbone Region. 

Winner: Never Far Behind

Cowboys in Mexico Region

1. Hallelujah
14. Rollin’ Highway Blues

Some will take this as piling on a song that they feel is great–because, it is great–but just to an extent. “Rollin’ Highway Blues” is a great song. But still, something doesn’t feel exactly feel right about it being in the Elite Eight. And maybe that’s something we should just get over and accept. Hell, maybe it is one of Bingham’s top eight songs. For a while now, it’s been one of my favorite songs and one that I’ve felt has been undervalued by the majority of Bingham fans. When we were setting this entire thing up, I was curious on where exactly “Rollin’ Highway Blues” would exit the Tournament. I wouldn’t have been surprised if it was a first round exit or if it would somehow make it into the Elite Eight or somehow, even in the Final Four or beyond. I thought about that, but it looks much differently when it actually happens. 

“Rollin’ Highway Blues” is really the “Funeral March” of a relationship. It’s heartbreaking. Gloomy. It’s a four in the morning messy fight with your soon to be ex that leaves you chain-smoking and drinking straight from your bottle of bourbon whiskey. You’re a man at the end of his wits. Desperate and sorrow fill your eyes. You almost feel tears filling Bingham’s eyes as he sings “I don’t have any more luck to lose” and “Cause every night I fall asleep with whiskey in my mind hoping that I might wake up next to you. But I know that I will wake alone in the morning dew and head back out on the rolling highway blues.” Hell, maybe it does deserve a spot at the table. 

Regardless though, it’s a losing battle against the sole Junky Star number left. “Hallelujah” isn’t just a murder ballad gone wrong. It’s not about the human experience and how you can get robbed by someone down on their luck and die alone in an alley. It’s not about the human experience or the misdeeds and corrupted hearts of men. It’s the soul experience. The fragility of life and the great unknown. 

Winner: Hallelujah

By The Numbers

Per Album

Mescalito: 2
Roadhouse Sun: 2
Junky Star: 2
Tomorrowland: 1
Other: 1

Album Record

Mescalito: 1-1
Roadhouse Sun: 0-2
Junky Star: 1-1
Tomorrowland: 1-0
Other: 1-0

Final Four Match-ups

1. Southside of Heaven
1. The Weary Kind

9. Never Far Behind
1. Hallelujah


2 responses to “Ryan Bingham Song Tournament: Day VIII Elite Eight

  1. I didn’t realize there was so much backlash against The Weary Kind. It is a beautiful song, and I’ll admit, it was my introduction to Bingham. That said, I don’t see anything stopping Southside of Heaven.

  2. Pingback: Ryan Bingham Song Tournament: Day IX Final Four | New Slang·

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