Confessions in flannel

Ben Ballinger
Ben Ballinger

Originally out of Austin, Texas, the now The Dalles-based musician Ben Ballinger says if he had to pick another artist’s song to introduce himself it would be Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.” The song’s words and melancholy tone, alongside a fierce determination, resonate with him, he says.

If Ballinger had to pick one of his own tunes as a calling card, it would be “One More Sad Song” from 2014’s John Prine-esque album The State I’m In, a release that The Austin Chronicle says ranks among Austin’s best Americana releases of that year. In Austin, that’s saying a lot.

“At the end of the day, it’s a love song,” Ballinger says. And while the track overall recalls Otis Redding instead of Ol’ Blue Eyes, the song definitely shares the lyricism and wistfully nostalgic tone of “My Way.”

Elsewhere on the record, the raffish “Natatorium” has a gently humming Cajun accordion — thick with words and Ballinger’s rich, deep and weary baritone. “Ashes to Ashes” is hard gospel, and the perfectly titled “Confessions in Flannel” is a blend of religion, faith and politics. Both songs recall the era of iconoclastic, storytelling songwriters like Kris Kristofferson and Townes Van Zandt.

Ben Bollinger plays 8:30 pm Wednesday, Jan. 7, at Axe & Fiddle, Cottage Grove; free, 21-plus.