The recently-released sixth studio album by Ryan Bingham is an absolute delight. Blending together a range of genres, American Love Song provides unpredictable pleasures at every turn. Combining these brilliant new tracks with some of his most stately numbers from previous releases makes for an amazing evening in Manchester.
Enhancing the evening is Spanish singer-songwriter Joana Serrat in the support slot. Her most recent album Dripping Springs is an arresting and sensuous Americana record, enhanced by Israel Nash’s production along with the contribution of a plethora of artists synonymous with the genre. Presented live this evening, the lush production values have unfortunately been stripped back; it’s just Joana and an acoustic guitar, but her tender vocals are a delight, with a more palpable lower range than is apparent on record enhancing the drama of her atmospheric songs. The lack of a band to accompany her does affect certain tracks, but on moments like ‘Lost Battles’ her emotional vocals and a knack for a melody are all she needs to create something utterly beguiling.
Ryan Bingham’s band emerge from the shadows; the drummer creates a dirty rhythm which the guitarist picks up and enhances with emphatic grooves. It’s the jarring opening to ‘Nothin’ Holds Me Down’ and once the song reaches maximum velocity the Texan enters the fray to add his rasping country drawl. Manchester’s Gorilla is inexplicably not full and Bingham appears to be initially underwhelmed by the response to this raucous number. Album opener ‘Jingle and Go’ follows and this time the crowd respond to the breezy, jaunty nature of the song. Bingham has invited a couple of powerful female backing vocal singers for the tour and the gospel motifs that are threaded throughout the entire album are enhanced by the pair.
We’re informed that we’re going to get a bit of everything this evening; folk, rock and roll, Americana, gospel and ‘Situation Station’ follows, slowing proceedings down somewhat to address in explicit terms the themes of the whole record when he sings “Well I been thinkin’ bout the situation, How the world is full of frustration, As the president shits upon the nation, Wipes his ass with all denominations, Turns around and begs for donations.” We’re left in no doubt about the dysphoria the whole album deals with.
Most of the best moments from American Love Song are performed this evening. The timeless bluesy twang of ‘Beautiful and Kind’ is a joy, once again demonstrating his personal desires when he signs off with “I wish the world was beautiful and kind.” The more rambunctious tones return with ‘Got Damn Blues’. It’s a roiling, bottleneck guitar infused gospel number and this combination of passionate genres enhances the impact before ‘Blue’ applies the brakes again.
This ebb and flow of the setlist recreates the unpredictable nature of the new record and when the band depart Bingham is allowed to really take it back to basics with ‘Mariachi’ which is accompanied by an insight into his formative years in Texas along with his adventures in learning the guitar. A huge cheer erupts once the opening strains of ‘Southside of Heaven’ are recognised and we’re told it was the first song he wrote; it’s still one of his best and his stripped back solo performance is perfect!
The band return for the final third of the show and it’s album highlight ‘Hot House’ that illuminates this section of the evening; a greasy guitar duels with Bingham’s sleazy potboiler to thrilling effect and signals a peak in the show which Bingham winds down with the romantically inclined ‘Lover Girl’ a particularly alluring moment.
The encore retains the more reserved cadence and it is here that we are reminded that we have an Oscar-winner in our midst when the regal yet melancholy ‘The Weary Kind’ winds up proceedings. Ryan Bingham always had a good setlist but with the new record he can now present a masterly one. Utterly compelling!
Words & Images by Iain Fox