Hallelujah - Ryan Bingham

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Listening to the hard-luck narratives on Junky Star, you’d never know that Ryan Bingham had recently won an Academy Award for his song “The Weary Kind” (featured in the 2009 film Crazy Heart). This latter-day Dust Bowl troubadour carries himself with the same ragged integrity that made his earlier albums so striking. Producer T Bone Burnett keeps the album’s sound unvarnished, allowing the sinewy folk-rock of Bingham and his group to speak with stark eloquence. Eruptions of sudden violence mingle with glimpses of quiet grace in these songs. Bingham’s bone-dry, gravel-pitted vocals give these bleak yet magical tunes a palpable moral weight and emotional resonance. The title track, “All Choked Up Again” and especially “Hallelujah” (a beyond-the-grave testimony of a murdered man) are dark, compelling visions sung with deceptive restraint. The anthemic “Depression” and the rollicking “Direction of the Wind” offer defiance amidst desolation, while “The Poet” and “Yesterday’s Blues” find beauty in America’s lonesome spaces. Junky Star shines.

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