Following his Oscar and Grammy triumphs in 2010 for his song "The Weary Kind," from the film Crazy Heart, musician Ryan Bingham found himself battling a new, yet widely-held perception. Many of the Texas-raised Bingham's new fans automatically linked his career and sound with that of Bad Blake, the character played by Jeff Bridges who sang Bingham's acclaimed song in the film.
Though Bingham bristled at the notion that he was a plain-Jane country artist, it wasn't as if the correlation was much of a stretch. As his profile continued to rise with the release of his 2010, post-awards album Junky Star, he didn't try to tell anyone what kind of singer he was, necessarily, but he wasn't interested in being limited in his artistic scope.
In all fairness, a quick check of Bingham's personal timeline yields more than a hint of at least surface-level country music bona fides. During his younger years, the performer lived in rodeo-centric locales including Fort Worth and Houston, not to mention Hobbs, N.M., where he was born. He learned to play the guitar in Laredo as a teen, and eventually found his way onto the backs of some bucking bulls as a true-blue rodeo cowboy.
And over the course of his first two full-length records, Mescalito (2007) and Roadhouse Sun (2009), Bingham established himself as a modern-day drifting cowboy through an addictive blend of his jagged-gravel vocals and vividly poetic storytelling style. But his most recent studio albums, 2012's eclectic Tomorrowland and 2015's oft-heartbreaking Fear and Saturday Night, brought greater focus towards his already keen roots-rock style and folk-style flourishes.
It's understandable that he still finds himself in the conversation about of best Texas country artists, given his personal history in the state, his rootsy sound and the fact that radio stations specializing in state-specific independent country are all too willing to add his every new song to their heavy rotation playlists.
But, as is the case with many Lone Star greats, while Bingham does in fact play some country, it's just not fair to lazily slap the regionally-minded "Texas country" stamp all over him. He's bigger than that.
As an actor, Bingham is now a regular on the epic, Western television series Yellowstone, starring Kevin Costner. Playing the role of a singing ex-con ranch hand, Bingham doesn't come off as a guy who can be pinned down by one simple label. In the show, he's clearly no generic cowpoke, just as his music isn't anything but his very own, regardless of what anyone calls it.
On Dec. 7 at 8 p.m. at the Kessler Theater, 1230 W. Davis Street, Dallas. Sold Out. thekessler.org.