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Who knows Ryan Bingham?

House of Blues, Anaheim, Cal., March 2, 2013

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

It was impossible not to note the irony of Ryan Bingham playing the House of Blues just a stone's throw away from Disneyland in support of an album titled "Tomorrowland."

However, Bingham isn't all about futuristic music the way that 'land' in the theme park was based upon what creators from the '50s imagined the future would be like. Instead, Bingham stated his intentions emphatically with song number two, which included the line, "We got the country and the rhythm and blues," during the track Heart of Rhythm.

Bingham, best known for winning an Academy Award for co-writing and performing the song The Weary Kind from the 2009 film "Crazy Heart," unquestionably brought the country and the rhythm and blues tonight. While he has won over the hearts of alt.-country fans - and rightfully so - he's actually closer to a folk-rock troubadour, stylistically.

Tonight, while backed by a three-piece band, Bingham sang his hard luck rock songs with a permanently scratchy voice. Calling him a backwoods Bruce Springsteen might not be that much of a stretch.

While not completely aloof, Bingham never went out of his way to engage his audience. Never, for example, did he introduce or explain any of his songs, but went about his performance in a straight, business-like manner. Bingham opened with an angry, guitar rocker that would in no wise go over well in mainstream country circles. The song, Guess Who's Knocking asks the question, "Guess who's knocking at the door?" only to have Bingham answer, angrily, "It's me, MF/I'm knocking on the door."

Bingham kept his hard rocking band busy most the night and only took a brief break away from his players for a few acoustic performances. In addition to the two-electric guitar, bass and drum attack. Bingham also added Dylan-y harmonica now and again.

When you're Bob Dylan, and a fascinatingly enigmatic poet as he, you can be a little distant and aloof. However, with many in the audience still relatively unfamiliar with Bingham's music, he probably should have done a little more to bring this crowd into his world. He's just too good to keep potential fans at arm's length. Yet, it seemed as though he didn't really care if you knew him or not.

The duo, Honeyhoney, comprised of Suzanne Santo (vocals/banjo/violin) and Ben Jaffe (vocals/guitar/percussion) opened with a smart, yet traditional, set of country-inspired music. Santo is a fine vocalist. It's not every day you get to see a woman accompany herself on both banjo and fiddle. This act's short set was filled with all the warmth Bingham's performance lacked. All it takes is a little bit of honey sometimes to eliminate a bitter taste.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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