The Inside Passage is the 3rd solo studio release from Bentall. In a previous incarnation he was the front man of The Legendary Hearts, who had considerable success in their native Canada, before leaving to start a cattle ranch. Thankfully for us Bentall could not resist the lure of the music industry.
The Inside Passage mixes pop melodies with Americana while taking a detour for some blues, country and rock all pulled together by Bentall's expressive voice and some lovely warm production. Album opener Hold My Heart is an upbeat country rocker that is a slice of summer in music form. The first thing that struck me when the singing started was how much Bentall's voice sounds uncannily like Bap Kennedy. There is also a lot of similarities musically between the two. Both know how to craft a song and have a penchant for the melancholy in their lyrics.
There are some real gems on this album and none more so than On This Beautiful Night. The brass section is inspired, the stabbing rhodes piano hypnotic and Debra Jean Creelman's backing vocals suitably restrained. Face to Face is a touching ode from a father to his daughter on her wedding day and is quite beautiful, both lyrically and musically. Papa Henry's Boy finds us in territory much loved by the likes of Steve Earle and Bentall more than holds his own with this bluegrass/zydeco tinged foot stomper that is built for dancing.
Bentalls strength is that he is a consummate storyteller, his lyrics painting pictures that are framed by his songs and this album is his picture book stuffed full of family photos, mementos and memories of his past. The Inside Passage is an album of considerable charm and beauty from an artist that writes and sings with conviction and passion. Buy it.