Top Five Tuesday :: Songs by Ryan Bingham

As an ode to the keep art alive project that Ryan Bingham took part in this week, and as a thank you to Ryan Bingham himself, my Tuesday Top Five will be dedicated to his music, and my top five choices of favorite songs of his. Ryan’s music is a relatively new music discovery of mine, nonetheless, there are quite a few songs that have already worked their way into my psyche, my soul, and my neverending playlist. Following are my top five favorites of those songs:

5. Every Wonder Why

“Then I take a pen and a little piece of paper,
I scribble on down the lines.
And what you’re hearin’ now is something I found,
hidin’ way down inside the cellar of my heart.”

This song became a favorite after seeing and hearing it performed live and acoustic at Ryan Bingham’s show at the Fonda this past September. The storytelling aspect, the persisting against the odds, and the raw honesty that oozes out of the song is heartbreakingly breathtaking. This song’s confessional style and the way it embraces the listener is one of the reasons that I have taken so strongly to Ryan’s music. These hard luck, hard life, keep the music playing to survive songs are so damn relatable to me. I love also how this is a song about a writer and a wonderer, two things that I fancy myself to be, as well.

I find myself coming back for more with this song, hitting replay again and again, feeling this song as it becomes a part of me.

4. Hallelujah

“So tell me now if your singing can bring me,
another day with my feet on the ground.
I miss living and living misses me,
I miss it so much that I’m holding me down.”

This song shares its name with one of my all-time favorites from another artist, which I will readily admit led me to listen to this song first when I got my hands on the album, Junky Star. Another story to be told from the road and from the wandering, Ryan’s music sharing my gypsy soul love of change and adventure in the same way that I love Kerouac’s On the Road and Cowboy Junkies’ song 200 More Miles. The leaving and coming home, the way that feels and the way one can get so lost in the process, rings and sings so true. I am reminded of the long road back home to California from a failed time in Chicago, and how that return felt, long stretches of highway in the middle of the night with nothing else to accompany me but music and so many thoughts.

The chorus, especially the part that sings “hallelujah, it’s just a song” gets to me. I carry it around, repeating the lyrical refrain in my mind, and picture it as some kind of response to Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’; a momentary realization that even the most impactful things in life are fleeting, changing, and gone as fast as they arrive. It sings like lessons one can only learn on the world weary road back home.

3.  Never Far Behind

“With so much love all around you,
how could you never realize?
The ground above,
the sky below you,
must beat the hell out of being alive.”

Another song that I was drawn to strongly after I heard it played live, Never Far Behind is one of those songs that never fail to bring tears to my eyes. This song reminds me of how I feel about my father, and how I have spent so much of my life trying to make peace with the pain and abandonment I have felt from him, how I have tried to forgive, and how I have tried to let it all go – but, it is always there waiting, just under the surface, one tiny scratch and I feel it all again.

It also reminds me of my ex-husband, the father of two of my children, the one who passed away a few years back from an overdose. There is such a similar pain and abandonment that I feel from that loss, along with an unrequited anger that never quite leaves me behind. I try to make peace with it, but I have to pause to wonder if there are some things in life that we never quite get over.

Music is therapy to me, as well as it being my lifeline and my oxygen, and songs like this one, despite the pain they cause, are cathartic as well. This is one of those songs that I am grateful to know, and to have to keep in the soundtrack of my life playlist.

2. Heart of Rhythm

“Come on honey,
we got nothing to lose.
We got the country and the rhythm and the blues.”

Tomorrowland has quickly become one of my favorite albums of 2012, if not my most favorite. I love the stories and the sounds, the energy and the honesty, and the way the album, in its entirety, makes me feel. Heart of Rhythm was a quick favorite after a once through listen, and it remains not just one of my favorites from the album, but of all Ryan’s songs. There is something familiar to this song that taps on memories of my adolescence and that kind of wayward immortality one feels in the teen years, no matter how tumultuous they may be. This song harkens a crossroads meeting between Rocky Horror Picture Show’s Meatloaf and Generation X’s era Billy Idol, with a quick kiss and feel from a hitchhiking country singer, a guitar slung low and hopes held high in their eyes, and their voice.

When I listen to this song I want to be spun around in that melding of music, even if it means a devil done deal at that crossroads itself. I want to dance and sing, and throw my hands up in reckless abandon; I want to be reckless completely when I turn this song up high.

This song is such a  fucking good time.

1.  Never Ending Show

“All I care for now is holding you,
and never letting go.”

Honest is a word I feel I continue to mention when writing about Ryan Bingham’s music, but I cannot help it, his songs feel so completely honest to me. With this one I am awestruck by the honest (see, there’s that word again) portrayal of life on the road and how love can, if not change it, alter the perspective one has while travelling and touring. There is joy to be found on the road and there is loneliness, and in-between the two is a lot of long nights, physical and emotional exhaustion, and an overarching feeling of rootlessness. As much as one may love the road, and how much as I often long for it, there is something so vital in having something to come home to.

The road and home, along with honesty, continuing themes in my favorite picks of Ryan’s music, most likely because both are so important to my own life. This is one of those songs that I keep playing while I write, the sound and the lyrics becoming a muse to part of a story I have been toiling away at. Music as art and as muse, it matters so much to me.

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