Ridley Bent
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Ridley Bent

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada | INDIE

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada | INDIE
Band Alternative Country

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Ridley Bent
Rabbit On My Wheel
By Kerry Doole

When singer-songwriter Bent burst onto the scene with his 2005 debut, Blam, he turned ears with a fusion of rock, roots and hip-hop that elicited Buck 65 comparisons. The beat references and beats have been buried now, and this third album is firmly planted in the country camp. There are plenty of songs about drinking, fast cars and foxy babes ("Good Lookin' Country") here. And there's nothing wrong with that stylistic switch when you do it as well as Bent. It's working too, as country radio quickly jumped on this album's first single, "I Can't Turn My Back On The Bottle." Producer John MacArthur Ellis (Dustin Bentall, Jane Siberry) has a clear, uncluttered sound, guitar ace Luke Doucet guests on "Square Your Hat" and fiddle and female backing vocals mesh nicely on the rompin' "Yukon Belle." Bent has a robust, convincing vocal style, as demonstrated by a fine cover of the George Jones classic "She Thinks I Still Care." This is a bright light on the oft-dull landscape of conventional Canadian country. (Open Road/Universal) - Exclaim!


Most Americans aren’t aware of the rich country music tradition in Canada. The twangy stuff drifted up from the States in the early part of the 20th century from then burgeoning US radio shows like WBAP, Fort Worth (1923), WLS, Chicago (’WLS Barn Dance’ 1924), and WSM, Nashville (’Grand Ole Opry‘ 1925). Country music was soon being broadcast on Canadian radio, beginning with George Wade and His Cornhuskers on CFRB, Toronto, in 1928, and Don Messer on CFBO, Saint John, NB, in 1929.

The point of this Canuckian history lesson is to understand how someone as genuinely country as Ridley Bent can come from the Great White North (Halifax-born, Alberta-raised, Vancouver-based, to be exact.) There’s a lot of history to draw on.

From the official PR sheet- Ridley was “Fed by a steady diet pulp westerns, and recent collaborations with housemates and sometime writing partners, Dustin Bentall and Cam Latimer, Ridley’s renewed interest came to a head during a long, unplanned detour on Vancouver Island. He had a grand total of five records to hand, but never got past George Jones’ Super Hits and Brad Paisley’s Part Two. Those records got Ridley to thinking, not just about what kind of music he wanted to make, but what kind of band he wanted to make it with…

“A wicked Country band,” he says flatly - the kind that makes a record sound like its been tracked in one go, by a crew of heavy, road savvy players in matching suits. So, with a fist full of new songs, Ridley teamed up with Vancouver based producer and multi-instrumentalist Johnny Ellis to do just that…” And with “Buckles and Boots” (Open Road) Ridley Bent has made a great country album that should assure him Nashville stardom. He has the looks, the wardrobe, the sound, hell, he even has the perfect name. The rub against mainstream success is what makes Ridley Bent’s music so compelling. His daring ventures into smart narratives instead of hackneyed cliches and and an occasional genre-bending excursion instead of cookie-cutter arrangements dictated from the marketing department (Ridley’s MySpace genre is listed as Country / Hip Hop / Western Swing) will be his mainstream undoing. Even with his adept grasp on tradition he clearly is clearly unafraid to take on a challenge.

The opening title song gets things is revved-up Bakersfield style with forlorn broken-hearted lyrics that stand in contrast with the boot-skootin arrangement and the cracker-jack 7-piece band consisting of the country staples of steel, slide and lead guitars, fiddles, piano and organs - all ripping it up with abandon.

“Nine Inch Nails” is another break-up song in a Texas-shuffle Bob Wills style with a ripping guitar break and a title that refers to the mixed up albums that resulted in the split with his lady. I love a song that name checks Tom T Hall and Husker Du in the same song! Funny and brilliantly executed with heart.

“Cry” is another breakup song (sensing a theme here), but it’s the first one that sound like it. Opening with the sad mourn of lap-steel and fiddle the song is a waltz of loneliness. I don’t know if Scott wrote this song as a tip-of-the-hat to Johnny Cash (who had his own hit with a different Cry, Cry, Cry) but if he did this is a fitting tribute to the Man In Black.

“Heartland Heartbreak” (here we go again!) gets the party stared again with a song George Strait would kill to record and “Arlington” is a life-on-the-road country love song that can only be described a beautiful and shows no hint of Nashville-style cloying. A moving tale of unrequited love loaded with longing, “Faded Red Hoodie” should be a hit on all country radio stations everywhere. “Mama” sound like a Lyle Lovett-style ditty about a long in the tooth road-racer on run from the law.

Apache Hairlifter is where genre’s fold in. Ridley blazed new ground with hick-hop on his first release “Blam” and on this cut he moves back to his brand of spoken word story-telling. It works better then anything Kid Rock ever tried and rap and country aren’t that as strange as it might see, Listen to Johnny Cash’s cover of Hank Snow classic “I’ve Been Everywhere”
and tell me rap and country have no common elements. Apache Hairlifter has dope flow (couldn’t resist, yo) as it unfolds a story about a cow-puncher and his adventures in the wold-west and an encounter with an Indian beauty.

This is a pleasant late addition to my best of 2007 list! - Twang Nation - http://www.twangnation.com/2007/12/02/ridley-bent-buckles-and-boots-open-road/


Occasionally someone will ask me if I like country music. My stock answer is that I love country music recorded well into the seventies, but after that, the pickings are mighty slim. Then, inevitably, I proceed to list a dozen current artists, all of who are making incredible country music. For example, Dwight Yoakam consistently churns out strong material and his recent Buck Owens tribute is well worth the price of admission. Keith Urban, with an assist from Alicia Keys, tore up Gimme Shelter at Live Earth. Jack White introduced The Coal Miner's Daughter to a new generation of fans and Ryan Adams recently helped Willie Nelson bounce back from his Countryman debacle. Then there’s Dale Watson and Robbie Fulks and Waylon’s kid, Shooter; the list goes on and on, but turn on CMT for an hour and you’re treated to some of the most odious artists ever to don cowboy hats (or top hats in the case of Big & Rich).

Nashville is the official country capital, but there are country artists popping up in the strangest places. Recently, I’ve been made aware of a budding country scene in Vancouver, spearheaded by occasional tour mates Corb Lund and Ridley Bent. These are two artists who deserve your attention. For starters, they’re putting an interesting regional stamp on classic country, rather than simply slapping a redneck twist on Top 40. More importantly, they’ll restore your faith in Canadian music and help you work through The Barenaked Ladies.

More on Corb Lund in the near future, but for now, let’s talk about Ridley Bent. I'm not going to lie to you, this guy, to quote a friend of Dee's, is "country as a chicken coop," and Dodge is going to crucify me for this post. An Alberta native, Bent picked up the guitar and eventually drifted to Vancouver. There, a security guard job and an endless supply of Louis L’Amour novels provided ample time and inspiration for him to fashion his unique take on country music. His sophomore effort, Bullets & Boots (available now from the good folks at Open Road Recordings), is populated with characters that would be right at home on any Tom T. Hall record. Bent's fine voice and crack backing band allow him to move effortlessly from weepers to roadhouse stompers without missing a beat. The record boasts several standout tracks, including the insanely catchy first single, Nine Inch Nails, a tongue-in-cheek two-stepper that proves that country music can be clever without insulting your intelligence.

If you're a country fan, you pull for the underdog or are just a fan of great music, don't hesitate to check out Buckles & Boots. Even if you don't like country music, but you're interested in one of the most honest and heartfelt records of the year, let Ridley Bent show you "where the bottle and the truth collide." - My Old KY Home - http://myoldkyhome.blogspot.com/2007/12/ridley-bent-buckles-boots.html


3.5 out of 4!

RIDLEY BENT Buckles & Boots (Open Road) 

Halifax-born, Alberta-raised, Vancouver-based Bent practises country music of the big-hat-and-high-boots variety, but adds to the formula a uniquely Canadian trait: a penchant for strong and compelling narratives that don't sound like greeting card content or plots for domestic melodramas. He's funny, incisive, witty and an exceptionally literate lyricist, and he knows how to rock out. There's not a wasted track – or a single sentimental waste of time – on this album, but "Nine Inch Nails," a caustic tale of love on the rocks, makes a good Top track.

Greg Quill - Greg Quill


Discography

BLAM! - (Maple Music Recordings - 2005)
Buckles and Boots - 2007
Rabbit On My Wheel -2010
The Blood Trilogy -2012

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Bio

"Ridley Bent is one of Canada's strongest singer-songwriters, an exceptional lyricist who seems to have an endless cast of oddball characters running around in his head."
- John P. McLaughlin, The Vancouver Province

"funny, incisive, witty and an exceptionally literate lyricist, and he knows how to rock out... There's not a wasted track"
- Greg Quill, The Toronto Star

"A beat-poet cowboy that can sing a broken hearted country song [that
will] make you want to cry"
- Lynn Saxberg, The Ottawa Citizen

Like Ridley Bent's past records, Rabbit On My Wheel reads like a collection of short stories, showcasing the Western Canada based Country artist's keen fascination for characters whose life on the straight and narrow rarely lasts past the nearest exit to a short, crooked road.

On Rabbit On My Wheel, the 2009 CCMA nominee and 7-time BCCMA winner's storytelling and songwriting chops are sharper than ever. But where Ridley's 2005 MapleMusic Recordings debut, Blam, and Buckles and Boots, his 2007 followup on Open Road Recordings, ranged far and wide across the continent, this time out Ridley sticks a little closer to his life at home and on the road in Western Canada.

Although the tales are still as tall as they come, and the characters as large as life or larger, the cast of hard-drinking, fast-driving characters Ridley unleashes on Rabbit On My Wheel tend to be a shade less hell-bent on self-destruction than they are with keeping their lives between the lines and out of the ditch.

While that may be so, musically Rabbit On My Wheel definitely kicks it up a notch or six from Ridley's last record. "In my heart," he says, sounding for the world like a character from one of his own songs, "I rock." So does Rabbit On My Wheel...

Recorded in Vancouver's Factory Studios and Nashcroft Productions in Ashcroft, BC with returning producer John MacArthur Ellis (Jane Siberry, Dustin Bentall, Jeremy Fisher), the album brings together the same crack musical team Ridley hit the road with after releasing Buckles and Boots. It also finds Ridley still hip deep in a passionate love affair with old school Country, but where many of the songs on his past records have come together largely during recording sessions, these show the distinct marks of having been dragged back and forth across the country a few times. "The band's tighter," Ridley says bluntly. "We worked out a lot of these songs live and only had about a week off after a nice, long tour with Corb Lund before we went into the studio in December 2009."

As tight as they are, there's still an off-the-cuff immediacy to the record that's a consistent hallmark of Ellis' production. "I like to maintain the spontaneity on the record," Ellis explains. "Some producers grind you down to get what they want out of you to the point where it's like, 'well, why don't you go and play the !!#?@*!! thing yourself?' I spend a lot of time selecting musicians. I know what they're going to bring to the table and I just kind of wrap my arms around that. And the better Ridley gets," Ellis adds, "the better the band gets."

Rabbit On My Wheel also benefits from a collaboration that began shortly after Ridley's relocation to Winnipeg in 2008, with guitarist/songwriter Chris Dunn. "Him and I did a lot of writing and working on the songs. Before this I'd get the songs, go in to the studio with the band and work it out. Having a guitar player there to bounce ideas off in the pre, pre production was very valuable. He's a big part of the album."

Channeling the high-energy performance ethic of artists like Dwight Yoakum and Little Feat, Ridley and his band tear a deep strip off the joint with tracks like "Square Your Hat", which features a guest appearance by renowned Canadian guitarist Luke Doucet (Veal, Sarah McLachlan), "Good Looking Country", a song inspired by Ridley's one and only, who he moved from Vancouver to Manitoba to be with, and the album's closing track "Burning Down Barns", on which every player in the band gets a chance to wail.

As ever, there are quieter moments as well. Ridley's never afraid to pepper his records with a few thoughts on love and loneliness - and his evolving cast of moonshine-running, racecar-driving malcontents tend to know their way around the ladies as well as they do the back roads of the west. Of course these are love stories told the way only Ridley can; tracks that run the gamut from hard and bitter to hardly better, including a beautifully rendered, deliberately down-tempo take on the classic Dickey Lee song made famous by George Jones in 1962, "She Thinks I Still Care".

While much of Ridley's new material is drawn from real life experiences he's gathered up on the road, Rabbit On My Wheel still has its share of shady characters, jackknifing tractor-trailers and whiskey-fuelled bar fights. And for those who identify strongly with Ridley's less reasonable characters - the ones who tend to prefer to stir things up with a pistol i