Sunday, June 7, 2009

Ryan Bingham

So today as I was broiling in my own Goats Head Soup soup about my own issues, while reading about music in The Austin Chronicle to relax, I came across someone worth talking about, a Texas musician named Ryan Bingham. Someone who obviously took the red pill (remember The Matrix) and the left fork in the road towards truth instead of seeking conformity.

At this point, I'd advise you to go to this myspace page for Ryan and listen to some of his music, particularly the fifth tune down, Take it easy, Mama

There was a time I would have not only heard of but would have met (and probably have the cell phone number and email of) Ryan. At the very least, I would have already seen him playing live on several occasions and quite possibly would have already had the opportunity to perform or jam with him. He runs with a crowd I know well, the troubadours of Texas who sing the song of it's people, places, loves, losses and lives. Joe Ely. Terry Allen. Butch Hancock. Robert Earl Keen. Guy Clark. Even a wacky olden days rock star named David Bourne, who likes to hang out with real people like the musicians mentioned above. Well, I know a couple of those guys pretty well.

I fell into knowing that bunch of folks strictly by accident. I was in a band in the early 90's, and we had recorded some studio tracks to both a DAT master as well as to an 8 track master tape. The DAT belonged to me, and just sounded wonderous. It was made at the board at the time of recording by the recording engineer, the late Phil Davis of Shadow Productions of Houston, Texas. Basically a raw mix from a live, multi-track recording that went via individual mics for vocals and instruments to an 8 track tape.

I was going to Austin a lot back then, both playing music and hanging with friends ***and of course lots of Hill Country fly fishing***, and one band I sat in with one night when their drummer was severely ill was called Johnny Law. They had a regular weekly gig at the now burned down Black Cat Lounge on 6th street and often played at all the good clubs in town. I became fast friends with their lead guitarist Brady, and through him met everyone that was working in original bands in Austin, and a few big name (to me at least) folks.

Whenever I would come to Austin, I would head over to Brady's apartment or hunt him up if it was at night and they were gigging. Despite having no cell phones, no email, no twitter in those days, I did remarkably well. Brady convinced me to take my DAT master to a place on 5th street in Austin for mastering and eq'ing, a place called LUBBOCK OR LEAVE IT (LOLI), owned by one of the Flatlanders, Butch Hancock.

Butch is not only a gifted guitarist/singer/songwriter, he is also an accomplished artist, and LOLI was his performance venue, art gallery for his and his friends West Texas artworks and recording studio. One thing the recording studio did was master and equalize DAT recordings of bands and make mass cassettes for selling at gigs. The band I was in at that time wanted and needed to have something to sell at our shows, which often packed local Houston venues like Rudyard's, where we regularly performed.

So it just so happened that a seminar was being held a week or so after Brady convinced me to master our tapes at Lubbock or leave it, and I was able to get work to send me to that seminar. Although I had attended that particular boot camp type seminar in the first year of my legal career, I decided to attend it again to have the opportunity to spend my evenings mastering the DAT at Butch Hancock's place.

And so I did, and so I met Butch and the Allen family and many of the folks that would pass through there in a week's time. Nearly every night that June at Lubbock or Leave It resulted in some sort of jam session that went on and on, attracting musicians, their friends and fans, and various artists.

It was a fun week, and certainly one of the best legal seminars I ever attended. We ended up with a great cassette tape of our band, and forever more when I go to Austin there is almost always someone from those days that I know that I run into at one of the usual musical haunts in Austin.

So anyway, taking the long way home here, this guy Ryan Bingham is the real thing. Not only has he lived the life, walked the walk and talked the talk, he's quite talented on guitar and in his singing and sings great stories about taking the road less traveled.

He reminds me there is a real world, of the Texas I used to live in before I pursued my various establishmentarian crafts, beyond courtrooms and politics, beyond the myriad of things lately that just "taint right". Who the hell knows, maybe I'm the one that's all skewed here. But I don't think so.

You can read some interesting stuff and a review of his new album at these links:

Discusses Ryan's hard-scrabble upbringing and life.

Some anecdotes about places he's lived and hung out in Texas

A review of his sophomore album, produced by a Black Crowe. I've heard it rocks.

Discusses Ryan's part in the soon-to-be -released movie CRAZY HEART, where Ryan not only performs with his band but also has some bit acting parts.

I already know I'm heading to some store tonight where I can buy this new CD, and hopefully his previous ones, even though it'd be easier to buy it online and download it. Maybe they'll lead me through this dilemma with some word of wisdom or musical answer, as the works of some of his friends like Ely and Hancock have done for me in the past. Perhaps there is some truism that can explain why the blue pill world doesn't seem to work right sometimes in one of those songs.

So I would've known long ago who Ryan was if I was still as active in Texas musicianing as I was even just a few years ago. I'd have already heard him playing in some bar in Marfa or Alpine or Austin. But then, if I had heard of him previously, it wouldn't be helping through this right now.

And Lord knows, I need something to calm my mind. Sometimes, my mind has a mind of it's own. I guess my biggest dilemma is actually one of the eternal and infernal questions that at times bothers all of us in this business...what part of "To Protect and To Serve" don't you understand?

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