Album Review – Ryan Bingham’s Fear and Saturday Night

In late 2012, singer/songwriter Ryan Bingham released an album titled Tomorrowland. That album was heavy and dark in content, reflecting back on the passing of Bingham’s parents. Fast-forward roughly two and a half years, Bingham has released his fifth studio album, Fear and Saturday Night. Content-wise, this album has a much lighter and hopeful feel in comparison. Ryan Bingham shows a different perspective to life. It’s not just a have hope and things will get better attitude, but an encouragement to not let life pass you by. Sudden deaths can be eye-opening as to how short life can truly be, and the songs on Fear and Saturday Night, for the most part, urge listeners to find pride and enjoyment with the present. Drawing from folk and rock influences for the production, Bingham delivers a diverse, pleasing album.

Appropriately, the album kicks off with “Nobody Knows My Trouble.” A simple country production behind a rough, raspy voice, Bingham sings of how he’s carried the weight of his troubles all his life. He sings how those troubles led him to vices like drugs and alcohol. He also tells how those feelings led him to write his pain down, but that wouldn’t erase them. Following up this track is “Broken Heart Tattoos.” I hear a ton of Bob Dylan influence in Ryan Bingham on this album, and this song is particularly evident of that influence. Here, Bingham is singing to his child. Children are born into innocence, without worry and without pain at first. However, this song encourages, “take your sweet time and walk a straight line. And don’t you be shy of your wilder side or be afraid to let loose with broken heart tattoos.”

The next few songs all deal with relationships. “Top Shelf Drug” is a more upbeat southern rock song. To me this feels a bit like a filler song he compares his strong addiction to his woman with a top shelf drug. It’s an enjoyable song to listen to, but there’s nothing truly profound or original about it. “Island In The Sky” is one of the album’s top tracks, maybe the best. “Would you walk with me high above the clouds below?” Bingham asks at the beginning. He wants his wife to be with him through life’s journey. Together, they can make their life great with endless possibilities. This reflective track is led with an acoustic guitar and harmonica and is sung with great passion. “Adventures of You and Me” finds Bingham and his love traveling across the country. Fittingly so, the song sounds adventurous with some Latin musical influence in the production along with what sounds like an accordion among the rocking guitars and drums. The song emphasizes that though the world and material possessions aren’t forever, the memories of our adventures are forever.

The album slows down for the next couple songs. The title track is tied together with the line “I don’t fear nothin’ except for myself.” It’s a darker tune about going out, presumably getting drunk, and raising hell. Up next is “My Diamond Is Too Rough,” which has a blue-collar theme finding pride in hard work. But really, the song has an understanding that life is more important than how much money you make. Up next is another filler song called “Radio.” The song is more mid-tempo, and details how music can intensify our emotions. Following “Radio” is the other standout track called “Snow Falls in June.” Using winter as metaphor, this song is about someone in a relationship going through a depressive time and feeling blue. Bingham confirms his true love and declares he’ll always be there for her when she feels like this. It’s an honest, heartfelt love song with a light rock production.

“Darlin” is another love song where Ryan Bingham expresses his need for her to be with him. He needs her strength and presence. It feels a bit like a filler song and doesn’t feel as strong or heartfelt as the song “Snow Falls in June.” “Hands of Time” has a rock and roll influence with some simple lyrics. The song is about going forward in life, and living as much as you can in the present. “The hands of time are a precious thing, I can’t just live so I can die on memory lane.” The song has great encouragement and reflection; it is a good representation of album’s message. The album ends with “Gun Fightin Man” is a nod to old western films. Harmonicas and acoustic guitars lead this track about life of a cowboy. This song is a great concluding track, in my opinion, with great instrumental breaks between the verses.

Bingham wrote each of these songs in solitude in an Airstream in the California Mountains, and the focus and care taken into each song is evident. Ryan Bingham is a talented writer and tells some compelling stories on this album. The diversity in the content and production on each track, the varying tempos, and honesty in Bingham’s voice make this album standout among the crowd. While there may be some filler tracks, they don’t take away from the listening experience, and the few strong, standout tracks truly add to the this album. Overall, Fear and Saturday Night is a fantastic listen from start to finish and comes highly recommended.

Grade: 9/10

 

12 thoughts on “Album Review – Ryan Bingham’s Fear and Saturday Night

  1. Cobra January 26, 2015 / 12:48 pm

    Should finally have my copy today. Looking forward to hearing it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Derek Hudgin January 26, 2015 / 12:57 pm

      It’s a great album with some really strong tracks. And even the two or three I didn’t particularly care for at first grew on me with subsequent listens.

      Like

  2. Zack January 26, 2015 / 1:19 pm

    I’ve heard great things about this guy, I’ll have to pick this up. I know you said “Tomorrowland” was one of his best albums but what others do you recommended?

    Also, not to go off topic here but have you guys heard the anti-bro country song by Trace Adkins? Its a couple months old but still another backlash at bro-country is never a bad thing:

    Liked by 1 person

    • Derek Hudgin January 26, 2015 / 1:26 pm

      Honestly, Zack, this was the first time I ever listened to Ryan Bingham. I played through a majority of his tracks on Spotify before reviewing Fear and Saturday Night, just approach this review with some familiarity and idea of his previous work, and I liked a lot of what I heard from him.

      And I like that Trace song! Kinda reminds of Wade Bowen’s “Songs About Trucks”

      Liked by 1 person

    • Kevin Davis January 26, 2015 / 7:57 pm

      I’ve adored Bingham since his debut album in 2007, so maybe I can help answer Zack’s question. His best two albums were his first two albums: Mescalito and Roadhouse Sun. At the risk of hyperbole, I consider both of these albums to be perfect. I’ve listened to both albums, from beginning to end, more times than I could possibly estimate. Each listen reveals something fresh and distinctive. It is astonishing that a 26 year old (when Bingham wrote the first album) could do something this brilliant. Of the two albums, I would say that Roadhouse Sun is my favorite. The variety is remarkable. If you like Skynyrd, Bob Dylan, Waylon Jennings, and Kris Kristofferson, then you will love Bingham. And yet each song is fully his own, not a mere ode to past heroes.

      With the third album, Junky Star, in 2010, we have his highest charting album, but this is largely because “The Weary Kind” (on the Crazy Heart soundtrack) was released in the same year and received huge acclaim (including an Oscar win!). This brought Bingham to a much wider audience, but Junky Star did not deliver as consistently as the first two albums, though many Bingham fans will disagree with me. It is a very introspective and mellow album. It has some true gems, like the lead track, “The Poet,” but it lacks the genius of the first two albums, which managed to capture a much broader range of emotions and life experience. Thus, I was not surprised when the fourth album, Tomorrowland, came out in 2012, proving to be a raucous mess, albeit an occasionally brilliant mess. Junky Star and Tomorrowland are sonically opposite, but that reveals the same underlying problem. Bingham is not grounded in the life-affirming brilliance of the first two albums. He had to find himself again, and based upon the reviews for this new album, he has come around. I knew he would. He is everything an artist should be. Surprisingly enough, I have not had a chance to listen to the whole album, because I am extraordinarily busy right now — but I am very excited to do so. Bingham is outlaw country without trying to be outlaw and certainly not touting himself as such.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Zack January 26, 2015 / 8:21 pm

        Thanks for the recommendations Kevin! I hope to get the album soon since this guy seems like he would be right up my alley.

        Like

      • Derek Hudgin January 27, 2015 / 8:44 am

        Thanks for the input, Kevin! I’ve been meaning to give Bingham’s other albums are more careful listen, hope to have some time here soon.

        Like

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