I like to live with the music before I write about it. Back in the day that meant getting the cd in the mail a few weeks or months before it dropped. Now, it usually means getting some sound cloud tracks way before it hits streaming services. At any rate, I need the music to seep into my soul, run through my blood and settle into my gut a while before I espouse an opinion on it. Such was the case with the recent releases from Ryan Bingham and Jason Eady. After living with the songs for a while, I’m ready to write about them.
Let’s start with Bingham. His Watch Out for the Wolf is sort of a concept album born of the Wyoming wilderness. Bingham continues his trajectory into experimentation and resembles less and less of the dusty cowboy he was throughout the 00’s and early 10’s. People have hit him with the he’s gone Hollywood trope, but to my ears it just seems like he’s bored with the southbound train to heaven troubadour sound. The lyrics are still there in pieces; but the sound is a mess. One thing this new Bingham collection has going for it is the man can whistle. I don’t think any record has crammed more useful whistling into its entirety ever. It’s no “Keep the Wolves Away” or “West Texas Cloud Appreciation Society”, but Bingham leans into the whistle and strikes gold a few times. At other points it is monotonous and unnecessary. That last sentence could sum up the entire project. It has glimmers of hope, but it’s also kind of shrouded in an aimless wilderness. Bingham is still Bingham, but he’s still searching for his artistic truth. Steps were made to that end with this collection, but the destination still hasn’t been reached or returned to.
That takes us to Eady. After a phenomenal multi-year detour into the realm of throwback honky-tonk, Eady confidently steps back into the groove of his Wayward Apostle era delta stomping groove. He titles the album Mississippi and it is full of soul. The lead track sets the tone “Way Down in Mississippi” and the album doesn’t really look back. Eady has a clear vision and he works to implement that vision and see it through musically, sonically, lyrically and thematically. This a trip down to the bayou and gulf and all that implies. Country, folk, jazz, blues, r&b, soul, rock, it’s all here in various doses. It’s a well-rounded toe tapper full of jams. Eady’s has been swinging the pendulum back to this slice of his musical personality for a few albums and years now. Back to his roots both literally and musically. He’s singing about his homeland in the manner those of us in Texas first encountered him. While his forays into vintage honky-tonk records have been welcomed and solid, Eady is likely at his best when he gets lost in the delta groove and lets it lead him home. That’s what this album feels like. Home. Be it Mississippi, Texas or some other locale, these songs are a warm breeze in grandma’s backyard. Chilled out but comforting. Eady is in peak form here.
I’d say take a swim or two through the Bingham and then let the Eady soak into your bones for a few good listens.