Country music's true American heritage has recently found itself lost somewhere between American Idol and the commercial hierarchy in Nashville. The modern troubadours are dead. Or are they? Steve Earle just released a spectacular new record. And now, spiritual heir Ryan Bingham is making headway with his Lost Highway debut. Bingham's definitely a new troubadour, a desperado or modern "outlaw" of sorts that is, a Spanish-speaking, bull-riding guitar man from a Texas border town strumming a form of new country that's never too far from old-timey. Mescalito is full of old cowboy clichés whiskey, revolvers and dusty trails but it's a lost tradition that's most welcome in this era of overproduced top 40. You know? As in real "country" music. Produced by ex-Black Crowes guitarist Marc Ford, the tracks here range from cowboy campfire pickers such as "Southside of Heaven" and "Long Way from Georgia" to a blue collar ode titled "Dollar a Day." Bingham's vocals are heavy-breathed, the almost battered voice of Lucinda Williams as evident on "Don't Wait for Me". The bottom-line? Mescalito is Texas ... but the Texas that Willie and Waylon both knew and some of us still remember. But that's not to say that the record wouldn't sound poignant on a UAW-heavy barroom jukebox, either.
Dustin Walsh writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.