When I got the new collaborative album from Barney Bentall & Geoffrey Kelly called RanchWriters, I fell into a trap.
I fell into it because I recognized the names. Bentall is a popular BC singer-songwriter who runs on the same circuit as my former band, just for much longer. And Kelly is the constant member of Spirit of the West, from whose cloth my band was cut!
The gratitude I had for them made me skip reading the press release. I went straight to download the music and listen.
So, I didn’t know how it would sound. That was the trap.
What did I expect? Maybe some Canadiana built on some folk songs, with eclectic instrumentation and featuring Bentall’s voice throughout.
And when I saw that every track was about three minutes, I thought, “Wow, maybe it’s poppy!”
No! Instead, it feels like it speaks straight to me. It’s the kind of album that I’d make twenty times, if I can graciously have that much time. It’s something I’m here for, when anyone makes it.
I just wish I knew how to describe it to someone who isn’t deep in this bag.
I’d say my favourite tracks on RanchWriters are “Sea to Sky”, which oddly has a Massive Attack mood, and the minor-key “Big Turk”. Also, the opener and “Winter Flood”.
I like the ones where it stays simple, with the focus on the melody rather than some of the chord progressions brought in.
But nothing’s perfect. In the second half, “Upstairs Downstairs (For Penny)”, “Black Tusk”, and “Pavilion” felt like fillers. One of the acoustic guitars sometimes sounds squeezed by compression. That said, engineer John Raham is a master.
The closer, “Earl’s Taxi”, feels like it should be on RanchWriters 2.
Do I dare use another word? The one that charitably speaks to what I pulled out of folk and brought into jazz in my own time?
And I think that’s it, cinematic instrumental folk.
Just look at the video for track four, “Bonaparte Plateau”:
Before we had drones, is that what folk music did? Did it paint the pictures of these places for us to remember or check out anew?
Instrumental music always gets questions going in my mind. I love that!
Track six, “Fred Neil”, is another single of sorts. Check it out:
Bentall and Kelly sit on boxes in front of their collaborators. Dogs and cats run around Bentall’s ranch: take me there!
At the time of writing, the top YouTube comment says: “I kept waiting for somebody to sing. Disappointed.”
That’s okay, commenter. You and I just aren’t much alike. Please go check out something else.
Instead, I feel more like Bentall’s wife, who doesn’t mind vibing to this at certain relaxing times.
For everything, there’s a season. I’d learn that on a ranch!
So, this album is perfect for me. But I have to say it, because there’s nothing more specific to my voice with which I could sign off:
This is an album that J. Knutson has made a few times. The Spirit of the West cinematic folk universe, it’s not new.
But it’s new when a leader of legendary hearts, known for singing, does it. And I celebrate!
Choose your music platform here and listen to RanchWriters by Barney Bentall and Geoffrey Kelly.
The artist maintains the link above. If the link broke, please contact Rhythm Changes, and thank you for the heads-up.