Ryan Bingham & the Dead HorsesRoadhouse Sun (Lost Highway)
Black Crowes are harbingers of Southern rock, so Ryan Bingham's second disc produced for Nashville indie Lost Highway by the Atlanta flock's former guitarist Marc Ford doesn't just fly the stars 'n' bars of 1992's The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion incidentally. Bingham and his Dead Horses unfurl the Rolling Stones' blueprint mulch of country-blues-rock as ingested generations later by native Mason/Dixon hardliners. Roadhouse Sun's honky-tonk and roll sweats Lone Star steel. Bingham's cracked, mic-kissing vocals contrast the power chords and slide guitar dynamics of these Dead Horses, particularly on opener "Day Is Done" but especially when the seven-minute ebb and flow of "Change Is" unleashes a burst of Zeppelin-esque. Musically, the only touch missing is a flap of banjo, which the LP nevertheless mimics with a virtual click track of stringed (and straw) instruments, from mandolin and Dobro to kitchen broom ("Dylan's Hard Rain"). Close-quartered and contained, acoustically rich romp "Tell My Mother I Miss Her So" would be just another empty roll in the hay were it not for the steel wire frame of album MVP Corby Schaub's slide whine, aided by Larry Meyers (fiddle) and Janice Hudgins (accordion). Bingham's appealing chaw syncs morning rasp to midnight wry/rye. The gospel-encrusted bad-luck blue-eyes goodbye of "Bluebird" finds Bingham filling his vocal creek bed with a rising river of Southern-fried choral, while the following "Snake Eyes" rolls its antidote on stripped crystal bonhomie. Lyrically, it's mostly steel-horse cowboys and the women who love(d) them ("Rollin Highway Blues"), so "Hey Hey Hurray" bristles with lit-flare guitar like Ray Wylie Hubbard's snake farm. Could be a couple songs shorter ("Country Roads," "Roadhouse Blues"), but Bingham's sophomore shooter for Lost Highway rocks as the Crowes fly.