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Ryan Bingham

Ryan Bingham, 26, an alt-country musician with a small but fervent following, is seen by some as vying for the mantle of the vaunted songwriters who have come out of West Texas: Buddy Holly, Waylon Jennings, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Butch Hancock.

Click here to listen to Bingham’s “South Side of Heaven.” (Michael Stravato / For The Times)
Bingham composes himself during his sound check at Fitzgerald’s, a Houston club. Some have eyed his music with skepticism; one writer said he had fallen victim to “absurd self-mythologizing.” (Michael Stravato / For The Times)
Musician Joe Ely, left, backstage at Fitzgerald’s with Bingham’s girlfriend, Anna Axster; Bingham; and Bingham’s friend and drummer, Matt Smith. Ely said he felt a kinship with young Bingham: “That’s a rough-and-tumble world out there in West Texas. There comes a time when you might either wind up in the pen or you can pick up your guitar and sing your way out. That’s what Ryan did. I could relate.” (Michael Stravato / For The Times)
Posters tout a Bingham appearance in Houston. (Michael Stravato / For The Times)
Bingham takes the stage at Fitzgerald’s. His right hand is permanently disfigured from injuries he suffered while riding bulls, but it does not affect his guitar playing. (Michael Stravato / For The Times)
Bingham jams with Corby Schaub, who is on the mandolin. Some musicians have grown frustrated with Bingham’s music, he confessed, because he wrote many of his songs with no training, so the songs break many “rules” of traditional music.

Click here to listen to Bingham’s “Sunshine.” (Michael Stravato / For The Times)
Bingham, backed by bass player Elijah Ford, center, and Ford’s father, Marc Ford. The elder Ford, who played with the Black Crowes and Ben Harper, produced “Mescalito” and will produce Bingham’s next album, which will be recorded in early April at the Compound in Long Beach. (Michael Stravato / For The Times)
Fans at Fitzgerald’s appreciate Bingham’s set. (Michael Stravato / For The Times)
Fans chant “Bing-ham! Bing-ham!” as he leaves the stage. (Michael Stravato / For The Times)
A sweat-soaked Bingham says nothing after the show until he notices a visitor and asks, “Hey man. You havin’ a good night?” (Michael Stravato / For The Times)
Bingham, raised in New Mexico and Texas, reveals his hardscrabble life in his songs. (Michael Stravato / For The Times)