The Inside Passage
Canadian Barney Bentall has produced an immensely likeable album in The Inside Passage. Even on the first listen or two, the tuneful songs and relaxed playing of his band impresses.
Bentall had some success, particularly in Canada, during the 1990s with his band The Legendary Hearts. He’s made a number of solo records since the band split in 2000 and now divides his time between cattle-ranching in British Columbia and making music. Unfortunately, live shows over the past couple of years seem to have been limited to Canada.
You might guess from the cover art – a shot of Bentall standing on rocks gazing out to sea – that you were in store for some moody singer-songwriter angst. But that would be entirely wrong. Instead, the album reflects Bentall’s stated aim of producing a collection of songs loosely based on moving through life.
So “Disappearing” is about the things that are lost from childhood, and the title track is dedicated to his father: And those long Summer days, When worry was worlds away. “Catch That Train” is a song about taking a different path from his contemporaries (I didn’t catch that train). “On This Beautiful Night” is a paean to nights spent in Italy, while “ Papa Henry’s Boy” offers a change of pace, an upbeat track that could be an outtake from Springsteen’s Seeger Sessions.
The best track lyrically on the album is “Face To Face”, a lovely ballad about a couple getting married, touchingly written from the perspective of the father giving away his daughter: All of my love been there right from the start, Captured from the very first beat of your heart… Slip with my blessing away from my arm, Leaving a vapour trail of your warmth and your charm.
There is some lovely fiddle, pedal steel and piano, and even brass on a couple of songs. It’s a tribute to the production and playing of the band that nothing ever sounds out of place.
A couple of the tracks aren’t as fully-formed as the rest, and over the course of the CD, there are a couple of lines that don’t scan quite as smoothly as one would wish. But somehow Bentall makes it easy to forgive these minor lapses, and has come up with an album that’s definitely worth investigating if you want some tuneful, well-played songs and an album which somehow just feels right.
Release date: April 12