Album review: Dustin Bentall, Streets With No Lights (2006)

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, JULY 20, 2006

By Steve Newton

It’s funny, the stuff you remember, like a phone call to Vancouver rocker Barney Bentall in the early ’80s. I was a cub reporter for the Straight, new on the local scene, and I rang him at home to get some details for a profile I was writing. I still recall how harried the guy sounded, trying to be heard above squalling kids in the background.

Now it occurs to me that one of those miniature noisemakers probably grew up to become B.C. roots singer-songwriter Dustin Bentall. Judging by the world-class alt-country vibe of Streets With No Lights, it’s evident that Papa Bentall raised himself one heckuva talented son, a sharp-eyed songwriter with a wonderfully earthy voice.

Beats me where the Northerner acquired that Steve Earle drawl, but it suits him just fine.

Bentall wrote nine of the 10 tracks on Streets, and from the twangy, shit-kickin’ title track that opens the disc right on through to the haunting, fingerpicked closer, “Blackie”, there’s nary a loser in the bunch. It doesn’t hurt that he’s surrounded himself with players like ace drummer Pat Steward (ex-Odds) and guitarist-producer Johnny Ellis, whose pedal-steel work shines throughout.

The sole cover is Stephen Stills’s “Helplessly Hoping”, in which Bentall’s rough-hewn vocals are nicely polished by the sweet harmonies of Molly Guldemond and Debra-Jean Creelman, with Ryan Guldemond providing some extremely tasty acoustic- guitar licks. Even when Bentall goes the standard 12-bar blues route, as on “Handful of Blues”, he manages to keep things interesting. Check out the budding superstar at the Blarney Stone on Wednesday (July 26), before Streets With No Lights illuminates his path to worldwide fame.

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