Back to Rockville

Ryan Bingham sings his stories in many shades of roots and blues in KC

Ryan Bingham performed Sunday night at Madrid Theatre.
Ryan Bingham performed Sunday night at Madrid Theatre.

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.

Timothy Finn: 816-234-4781, @phinnagain

Set list

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.