Ridley Bent is a Canadian singer/songwriter who began his recording career by blending his unique storytelling with various music genres to create a sound that was called "hick-hop" and grew to become one of the cornerstones of Vancouver's young alternative country movement.
Bent was born into a military family in Nova Scotia and spent his youth as an "army brat," traveling extensively and eventually spending his formative years in Alberta. He started learning to play guitar at an early age, listening to such bands as Rage Against the Machine, Sublime, and the Beastie Boys. He moved to Vancouver by way of Whistler in 2000, getting a job as a security guard, a vocation that gave him lots of time to read such Americana authors as Louis l'Amour and John Steinbeck. These authors greatly influenced his writing style -- character-driven story lines with such strong narrative themes as drugs, desperation, ambition, love, racing, unrequited love, and murder, all told with dark humor, skilled rhyming, and a novelist's feel for plot twists and unexpected sentiment. Bent began moonlighting as a performer, developing his live presentation while performing at open mic nights and busking on the beach.
At the 2002 BC Festival of the Arts, he met producer Chin Injeti, a former R&B vocalist whose enthusiastic support led to the recording of Bent's first album. Blam collected together five years of Bent's narrative songs over backing tracks of hip-hop, funk, scratching, and even hard rock riffs to create a unique sound that became labeled as "hick-hop." The album was released to considerable acclaim and independent airplay in Canada; Bent was able to tour steadily, both with a backing band and as a solo artist. His live performance enthralled his new fans, both for his on-stage charisma and his creative playfulness, as audiences chuckled at his jokes and innuendos while gleefully rocking out.
Even before the recording of Blam, Bent had been attracted to Vancouver's alternative country and roots community, absorbing performances and hanging out with such talented locals as Dustin Bentall, Kent McAlister, Luc Doucet, and the Seams. Signed to a recording deal with Maple Music as a solo artist, he now could hire top-notch backing musicians, and with his focus shifting away from the "hick-hop" mishmash of musical styles toward the sounds of Bob Wills, Hank Williams, and George Jones, he started collaborating with the musicians of the local country scene.
His sophomore album, Buckles and Boots, was released in 2007 to considerable acclaim. Writing with long-time collaborators Cameron Latimer, Adam Dobres, Dustin Bentall, and producer John Ellis, the album evokes comparisons to Tom T. Hall ("Bobby and Suzanne" is a direct homage to Hall's "Turn It On"), Dwight Yoakam, and George Jones, and shows a giant progression for Bent. His voice is rich, masterful, his backing band superb; the songs are focussed and intelligent, utilizing traditional Western swing arrangements to highlight his narrative style and lyrical cleverness.
Bent continued to be highly active in the Vancouver music community while supporting this latest release. He formed the trio the Bottle and the Truth with Dustin Bentall and Cameron Latimer and performed and recorded as part of Barney Bentall's ambitious Grand Caribou Opry. With each new performance and project it is evident that Bent is a considerable new talent, and although he may never shake the "hick-hop" label, he's proving that his true gift as a storyteller and songwriter is best heard in a country music setting. ~ Laurie Mercer