Like so many Texas songwriters Ryan Bingham is a storyteller, a poet who paints portraits of small-town people bearing with life’s tribulations, like “Dollar a Day,” the story of a hard-working, underpaid man. He writes about love and romance, too, like “Top Shelf Drugs,” which compares infatuation to a powerful narcotic.
Both of those songs were on the set list Sunday night at the Madrid Theatre, where Bingham and his solid four-piece band performed before a rowdy, sold-out crowd.
Bingham sings with a deep rasp and a thick drawl. His voice perfectly suits his music, which traverses the Americana/roots spectrum, indulging in country, roadhouse blues and folk and, on a few occasions, approximating cajun music, as in the boot-stomping “Tell My Mother I Miss Her So,” which rode a furious fiddle line from Richard Bowden. His music also flexes its rock muscles, as in the sludge-blues anthem “Bluebird,” which erupted into a furious jam from lead guitarist Daniel Sproul that was near-metal.
The set list plumbed Bingham’s five-album discography, which goes back to 2007. It did not, however, include “The Weary Kind,” a track from the soundtrack to the film “Crazy Heart,” for which Bingham won an Academy Award and a Grammy.
The crowd’s attention waned on lesser-known songs, like “Radio,” which lacks the melodic kick of Bingham’s best material. But the room erupted several times into loud sing-alongs and dancing, especially during “Sunrise” and “Southside of Heaven,” a loping country-blues ballad that featured Bingham on blues harp.
He closed the one-hour and 45-minute show with a four-song encore that started with two solo-acoustic numbers: “The Poet,” a swampy blues number, and “Nobody Knows My Trouble.” The band joined him for two more: “Sunshine,” a barn-storming electric country-blues anthem that featured Bingham on bottleneck slide, then “Bread and Water,” more loud and heavy electric blues.
That one’s a travelogue about the places Bingham has visited and lived, from Texas, Louisiana and New Mexico to California. It was another rousing bar-band blues salvo with more manic fiddle from Bowden. And it was another slice-of-life sketch that bears a worthwhile message — the road is filled with rewards and hardships. Just like life itself.
Dollar a Day; Top Shelf Drug; Tell My Mother I Miss Her So; Broken-Heart Tattoos; Dylan’s Hard Rain; Radio; Ghost of Travelin’ Jones; Bluebird; Atlantic City; Country Roads; My Diamond Is Too Rough; Hard Times; Sunrise; Hallelujah; Southside of Heaven. Encore: The Poet; Nobody Knows My Trouble; Sunshine; Bread and Water.