Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
With one song, Ryan Bingham's life has became something of a different beast, thanks to "The Weary Kind," the theme song from the motion picture "Crazy Heart" that won the West Texan an Academy Award, something that he must never have thought would ever happen to him. Even while that's true - this shift in his way, his place of existence is still a place full of the weariness that he brings to its limping, exhausted, under-loved and malnourished life in those now lauded four minutes of song. It's a weariness that he seems beholden to, unable to shed. It's his hide and it's a feeling that's dyed into his wool and skin. Before "The Weary Kind" - with its story following that of a man not that unlike his own - that of a worn out and penniless traveling guitar man -- someone like Bad Blake or a Townes Van Zandt, men who wrestle with their elephant-sized demons, a stampede of them, a dirty conscious, worn out soles and souls, bitter dreams, those bottomless bottles of whiskey that seem to be available everywhere and a future that promises nothing but guaranteed hardship. It's almost more than you can bear and it's definitely much more than most men can bear. It's just one giant suffocation chamber, a hug that wraps around you and you'd do next to anything to be free from its clutches, but there you remain, wrapped up tightly.
Bingham was here on this Saturday morning after getting, maybe, two hours of sleep in Chicago the night before. His tour manager, an old friend who's been with him through the many lows and now the highs recalls the road diets consisting only of what was cheapest at the many truck stops they milled around in while the van filled up with diesel. He recalls the mild attendances and the great struggle. Now, the weariness comes from a newfound popularity, where a second, late show in Chicago was added to accommodate the demand. They got out of the club at an hour in the morning when the Tribunes were slapping against front porches and most decent people were stirring a bit with the sun. Bingham and his band needed coffee more than they needed anything. The tired throat and the saddlebags beneath the eyes were evident, but not many singers pull off the tired throat better than Bingham. He's actually made the hoarse, cockle burr-y sound of his singing feel like an old love letter, heard in your head, recited by the voice that originally broke your heart. Near the end of his song, "Yesterday's Blues," Bingham sings, "I shook the hand of the deepest sorrow," and he writes like a man who keeps a palm that's always warm with those kinds of hands. He sings of drunken horses and riding straight toward the sun and his characters come off as those kinds of hampered men who need to catch a break, but who might just be destined to continue feeling the sting of a raw life. They are down on their luck or they've been born into a situation that would take two lifetimes to dig themselves out of. And still, Bingham's music - if it were only focused on the facets that were going sourly - would be less appealing. What he has is a drifter's sense of the romantic, where maybe in the next city over, he'll fall into the greatest steak dinner he's ever feasted on and he'll meet that woman who will things a little better. He will come upon that love that's been lacking - the best reason he's found yet for getting out of bed in the morning. He's willing to "dance in this depression" as he sings on "Depression," and he's willing to continue his relationship with this stubborn weariness that - if he's being honest with himself - is not going anywhere.