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Bingham plays with something to prove

House of Blues, Anaheim, Cal., November 22, 2019

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

Ryan Bingham mainly focused on songs from his sixth album "American Love Song," for this lively show. Backed by a supportive band that also included two female backup singers and a fiddler, Bingham's eclectic setlist touched upon country, singer/songwriter folk, rock and blues.

Bingham reached for lively country sounds early on, with the older "Tell My Mother I Miss Her So," which featured down home enthusiastic fiddling. However, Bingham cranked up the rocking volume with "Pontiac," referencing the Rolling Stones, both musically and lyrically. Bingham took his time between songs to talk about his early years growing in New Mexico, where his future didn't look promising. Becoming a singer/songwriter was as much as an escape, as a destination.

The acoustic ballad, "Lover Girl," Bingham explained, tells the story how he met and fell in love with the woman that eventually became his wife. Along the way, we learned Bingham's view of the world is far from a positive one, however, made especially clear on the acoustic blues "Beautiful and Kind." The latter plays out like a woebegone Woody Guthrie travelogue.

Elizabeth Cook opened with a set of rocking country songs. Playing electric guitar throughout, Cook performed her delightfully insightful "El Camino," as well as "Three Chords and a Lie," which she introduced as the antithesis to Nashville's 'three chords and the truth' standard for songwriting. Cook talks a tough game, albeit with a little girl's voice, which made for an unusually inviting juxtaposition.

Bingham, at 38, is no spring chicken anymore, but he nevertheless performed this set as if he still had something left to prove. It was almost as though he was playing for that one person in the audience that was unfamiliar with his music. And if there was a newbie in this audience, he almost certainly left the venue a fan.

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