Barney Bentall – Flesh & Bone


Barney Bentall
Flesh & Bone

Canadian Singer-Songwriter shows us how it should be done

I have a couple of musician friends who travel to Canada every year, performing at Festivals and clubs and another who specializes in promoting Canadian labels in the UK. Yet again, between them they’ve unearthed another Canadian singer-songwriter who has delivered a collection of fully formed songs that are very nearly perfect in every way.

This is Bentall’s third solo studio album and just oozes quality from every groove (if CD’s still have grooves) and Bentall’s narratives are every inch as good as any of the more feted stars in Nashville, Chicago or NY have produced in recent years.

The Outskirts of Buffalo, which opens the album, is a love song full of small town trivia and personal observations. For some weird reason I couldn’t stop singing the chorus ‘ down-town there are two gold statues/with outstretched arms/trying to keep each other warm’ for days afterwards; which has to be a good sign, doesn’t it?

Four Goes to War has a great melody and tune but the story of four young Canadian boys/men returning home after fighting for Lincoln’s Men in the Civil War is always going to make for interesting listening; and Bentall tells a very subtle and clever story without making the history lesson tiresome.

As regular readers will know, I’m a sucker for a good love song and Her Beautiful Mind had me in bits on the first time I heard it. Sounding not unlike Bap Kennedy at times; and, with an exquisite fiddle and guitar accompaniment the storyteller falls in love with a woman who falls for someone else but she remains in our hero’s heart for the rest of his life. They cross paths over the ensuing years but he remains invisible to his one true love. You must have a heart of stone if this doesn’t have you in floods of tears before the end.

This is immediately followed by Say Goodbye to Albert Comfort which won’t even allow you to catch your breath. Bentall and an unnamed woman on exquisite harmonies take you on a journey that encompasses life, love and death before ending with a harrowing harmonica solo that Bob Dylan would have been proud of.

Not every song on FLESH & BONE is a ‘love song’, not by a long distance, but the ones that touched me and especially the finale Long, Lovely Love Affair are some of the sweetest songs I’ve heard in a very long time and just happen to be Love Songs.

I neither know nor possibly even care about Barney Bentall’s previous work; he has been a star in his home country since 1978, but FLESH & BONE must surely be his most personal and probably greatest work to date. If it’s not I’m going to have to spend a lot of money catching up on his back catalogue.