by: Thomas D. Mooney
Editor’s Note: #ThrowbackThursdays are album reviews of old Lubbock and Panhandle albums that, for one reason or another, need to further dissected. Maybe they’re hidden gems, overlooked mixed efforts, or shadowed by better works. Whatever the case, we’re (re)examining them every Thursday. This week, we’re changing gears and leaving it short with Ryan Bingham’s “Southside of Heaven” live at The Blue Light.
“And if you’re from West Texas, this song is for you.”–Ryan Bingham
Six years ago isn’t a long time ago. At all. Still, in these short six years, a singer-songwriter such as Ryan Bingham has released Roadhouse Sun, Junky Star, Tomorrowland, and Fear and Saturday Night since the release of his major label debut of Mescalito. Since then, he’s gone from country troubadour full of grit and dust to being a gritty, dusty Oscar, Grammy, etc etc etc award-winning songwriter.
Half a decade back, Bingham was performing at honky-tonks, roadhouses, and small venues like The Blue Light. He was full of piss and vinegar. His songwriting voice was rough and raw. It had weathered storms and whiskey bottle pulls. It was a young man in his day. Nowadays, he’s able to still find that lonesome, weary traveller. But these days, his songwriting has gone past that. It’s more than just being down and out.
These days, he’s doing really whatever he wants to do. Acoustic shut-the-fuck-up shows. Rowdy barnburners. Music festivals. Garage rock. Dust bowl balladeer. California surfer. West Texas cowboy. It’s all over the map.
Still, I go back to the fact that six years isn’t that long ago. Here we are seeing Bingham perform a rowdy performance of “Southside of Heaven,” the often-argued magnum opus of Bingham’s career. It’s interesting to see and hear a song that most folks would think first of as a heartfelt, personal, and searching song–something where each and every word is important and leaves you waiting for the next. It’s something you’d probably think would carry the most weight in an acoustic setting.
But here we are. Rowdy as ever. For better or worse, Bingham and The Dead Horses handle it. It’s still a powerful, driven performance of the song. It’s unclear at what point in the night “Southside of Heaven” was played, but I’m just assuming it’d be the final song–in either the bulk of the show or the encore.
I really haven’t the slightest of knowledge on whether Bingham had all of the things he has in him now back then or not. I’d assume, like many others in that time, Bingham has grown and matured into the man, artist, and songwriter he has become today. But, it’s still possible that he was always those other renditions of the Bingham psyche.
But, without doubt, here he’s that lonesome troubadour singing cowboy songs that a lot of us were first introduced to–for better or for worse.