|For some artists, winning an Oscar would represent reaching a pinnacle. For Ryan Bingham, who took home the Academy Award for "The Weary Kind," his hauntingly beautiful theme song for the acclaimed film Crazy Heart, it instead represented a crossroads and a decision about which path to take. |
"When there are a lot of people around saying 'look, you have to capitalize on this and do something really commercial,' you might think about it for a second," admits the LA-based singer-songwriter. "But at the end of the day, there's not a chance in hell I could do that. It made me sick to my stomach just thinking about it. I couldn't get up in front of people and play a bunch of stuff that didn't mean anything to me."
Bingham puts that philosophy to the test in a big way on Junky Star, his third album on Lost Highway, which was recorded in a matter of days with producer T Bone Burnett, his collaborator on the Crazy Heart soundtrack. The disc delivers a bracing fusion of pensive, gravelly ballads - like "Hallelujah," which is not a Leonard Cohen cover, but his own take on mortality, delivered from the other side of the veil - and raw, rock'n'roll cuts that showcase Bingham's incisive, darkly compelling lyrical bent.
Bingham channels a number of unique spirits over the course of the album, leading with his sensitive side on "The Poet" and kicking out the jams on the Waylon-meets-Keith Richards "All Choked Up Again." Elsewhere, as in songs like "Depression" - a vivid evocation of our current social climate that'd have Woody Guthrie nodding in approval - and the album's poignant title track, Bingham applies his wizened rasp with precise strokes, wringing emotion from every note.