Ryan Bingham, ‘Mescalito’ (Lost Highway)
Here’s how it’ll go: First, you’ll see this young Texas singer/songwriter on the cover of his debut album — sitting in the middle of a desolate highway, jeans torn, cowboy hat. Then you’ll flip on the first track and hear pleasantly road-worn fingerpicking, plaintive harmonica, and a cigarette scorched moan. You’ll hear songs called “Bread and Water” and “Hard Times.” You’ll feel like drinking a gallon of Mexican tap water when he starts crooning in Spanish. Is Bingham for real? Um, no. Folk and country have gone through too many mutations for us to know what the hell “real” means anymore. What hasn’t changed is that success in this genre means telling the story well. And Bingham does just that.