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Artist delivers tall tales with a country twang

Courtesy of Maple Music

Published in the Victoria Times Colonist

What do you get when you combine small-town romance and Prairie heartbreak with rip-roaring James Bond-style action?

Ridley Bent’s ultra-twangy country tunes.

Although the Winnipeg-based musician doesn’t necessarily sing about Aston Martins, scantily clad women or blowing up buildings, what he does weave into each of his gritty hoe-downs is the Hollywood-esque suspense, compliments of a flashy blockbuster plot.

“I think I use a lot more action in my songs than most [country] writers, whether it’s drag racing cars or guns,” Bent says over the phone from his home in Winnipeg. “When I like a movie, it’s usually an action movie that has a great story. I don’t like a full-on action movie without a story. And I like heavy drama.”

Bent’s 2007 record Buckles and Boots is a fine example of his vivid, fast-paced storytelling, especially when it comes to tracks like Nine Inch Nails (think of a domestic Mr. and Mrs. Smith set in rural Alberta) and Bobby and Suzanne (Dazed and Confused meets Requiem for a Dream). His use of country music to deliver tall tales has worked so far, with songs from Buckles and Boots earning Bent an Independent Music Award in January and a Canadian Radio Music Award nomination during Canadian Music Week.

Bent is penning songs for a new record and says they will also feature the seemingly odd combination of rural simplicity and big-screen excitement. For example, one song is about a moonshine runner in the late ’40s who becomes a NASCAR driver and has to outrace the cops.

According to Bent, the next record will experiment with a bit more rock and funk. It won’t be as hard-core country as Buckles & Boots, but it will retain the same grit that has become such a reliable storytelling zipline for this Michael Bay of country music.

“Country is a genre where the story is important,” he says. “Whereas with rock, usually the story isn’t that important. It’s usually the sound of the song.

“I think most country songs in fact have a story and are very, very lyrically based, and I do feel that I’m a lyricist first. That’s kind of my thing. Regardless of what kind of music I put behind it, I just feel like country is just one of those genres that’s all about the story.”

Bent says personal experiences almost never play a role in his songwriting. Rather, ideas and themes come to him in the form of lyrics or melodies, which then turn into a wild adventure inspired by some book or other.

A self-proclaimed literature lover with an active imagination, Bent can’t help but expel mountains of drama via his guitar. Especially after reading someone like Cormac McCarthy.

“I even take lines out of books and use them in my music sometimes,” Bent laughs, explaining how novels — both good and bad — have inspired his stories.

“Take Buckles & Boots — that’s the punchline to a joke in the Cormac McCarthy book The Crossing. And I’m always looking for the next line,” he laughs.

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