Ryan Bingham – Tomorrowland album review

With a voice that combines the best of Johnny Cash and Kurt Cobain, an Oscar, Golden Globe, and Grammy award all under his belt, and the theme song to Jeff Bridges knockout hit Crazy Heart as his main claim to fame, it’s safe to say that Ryan Bingham is an old soul, at least on the inside. But on the outside, he’s a spry 31, and is making the kinds of changes only the young can get away with. Dropping his band, The Dead Horses, as well major label backing with the advent of his new independent label, Bingham is back with the release of his 4th studio album, Tomorrowland.

Bingham easily navigates the genre of Americana with all its usual trappings, deftly combining elements of folk, country and rock to produce tracks that you could easily bounce a knee or tip a hat to. Obviously, Bingham’s voice is a focal point of the album. Raw and raspy, he screams pure, unadulterated emotion with every word. It gets to the point where tracks that feature his voice more sparsely, such as “Rising of the Ghetto” almost aren’t worth listening to. With a tonal quality such as the one he possesses, it’s impossible to imagine that there’s not a wise, white-haired, bearded man behind it all. Bingham certainly sings like one who’s been to the moon and back and seen it all. In a testament to his prowess as a musician, the act is, incredibly, entirely believable, despite his age.

But what is perhaps most remarkable about Tomorrowland is that its tracks abound with cliched themes but never seem cheesy or insincere. Songs like “Western Shores” (an optimistic song about not letting oneself get run down), “Flower Bomb” (a call to action in the face of all the poverty and hunger in the world), and “Heart of Rhythm” (which includes the lyric, “I’ve got a heart full of rhythm and rock and roll”), seem like they should be tiresome but never are. He even tackles the sentiment teenage insolence with the cheek of Jack White in “Guess Who’s Knockin’” only to come across as an exceptionally clever brand of ratty teenager. Herein lies Bingham’s true gift — the ability to reinvent. Whether it be themes or style, Bingham shows with Tomorrowland that old dogs might not learn new tricks, but they can certainly inspire them in others.

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