From the first moment Roman Candle took the stage playing "Eden is a Garden" and lead singer Skip Matheny demonstrated his average white American leaping ability, I felt it would be a special show. I was not disappointed. The performance was high energy but laid back. That may sound oxymoronic but if you were in attendance you would know what I mean. There was nothing pretentious about Roman Candle. Aside from the aforementioned leaps by the vocalist, there was no showing off. There was however plenty of good music. There is a spiritual side to Roman Candle that they deliver without the maudlin shoe gazing of your typical "high school emo band." (See link to "Why Modern Radio is A Ok") They manage to do it while having fun, which seems to be the exception in modern music. They played a good balance between their current release Oh Tall Tree in the Ear and their previous one, Wee Hours revue..
The highlight of the evening was when they played what I think is the best song of the year, "Why Modern Radio is A Ok." Another high moment was "Another Summer" from Wee Hours Revue. Their professionalism was much appreciated since the audience size was reduced dramatically because everyone in Birmingham went to the beach for Memorial Day. (So much for the bad economy.) The band's label success may have been recent but they are actually grizzled veterans. They began in Chapel Hill, North Carolina over 10 years ago and developed a loyal following there. They also worked with some of the area's top talent like Thad Cockerell and Caitlin Cary. Also, they regularly toured and recorded with Chris Stamey. According to Skip Matheny, who I spoke with after the show, they decided a different scene might be helpful and now live in Nashville. They have had hard luck with labels over the years but let's hope now is their time.
Listen to the year's best song below:
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Monday, June 8, 2009
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
I often wonder if record labels get stressed when an artist tries to top a great debut. After all sustainability can only be proven over time. Then again such anxiety just comes with the territory. Mescalito established Bingham and had critics crowing about his future. Expectations can be a burden, but Roadhouse Sun reveals a Ryan Bingham that is undaunted as his rough hewn voice moves from song to song in a follow up that actually tops its’ predecessor. This shouldn’t be a surprise since he is a former competitor on the Southwestern rodeo circuit. After all, some pencil necked A&R lackey or cynical critic is nothing compared to 8 seconds on the back of bull. In fact, if you are not familiar with Bingham’s story just pick up any Cormac McCarthy novel and you will get the picture. He is not the kind of person to be concerned with the opinions of others. He simply delivers raw emotion and honesty.
Roadhouse Sun is harder driving than Mescalito. In fact, the album title is an allusion to the mood of the album. Bingham is still a troubadour with lyrics that reflect the contemplation of a life spent on the road, yet the music is often ready for Saturday night. It is as if there is a battle going on between home sickness and wanderlust and home front is losing. However, it is precisely this tension that creates the almost perfect balance of Roadhouse Sun. The album is a trip that is both rewarding and fun. So it is time for everyone to forget their expectations of Ryan Bingham because he has arrived.
This review also appears on Twangville