by Sheldon Birnie
“I’m a little card player,” Ridley Bent says with a laugh. “ I wouldn’t consider myself a very good card player or a gambler at all. But my characters are.”
With two critically acclaimed full length records under his silver buckled belt, and an underground hick-hop classic in his back pocket, Ridley Bent is preparing to release his third country record, Wild Card, in January. Bent’s albums are full of toe-tapping tales of gamblers, drifters, hard working, hard boozing, hard rocking characters, and his latest is no exception.
Wild Card, recorded early in 2013 in Abbotsford, features essentially the same cracker jack band that recorded 2010’s Rabbit on My Wheel. But don’t expect to hear a carbon copy of Rabbit on Wild Card. Far from it. This time around, Bent took a rather deliberate approach to writing the material on this one.
“I was thinking about my set and my live show, like thinking ‘What does my live show need?’” he explained. “I was throwing down some grooves that I don’t have yet, basically, and writing to those grooves. It is country, but it is also pretty rock n roll and southern. I think it has that kind of vibe.”
Bent told Stylus that many of the tunes were co-written with his guitar player Chris Dunn, while a couple were penned with his longtime pal Dustin Bentall. Over a beer earlier this year at Dauphin’s Countryfest, he had also told Stylus about an unlikely influence on the vibe to Wild Card: Little Feat.
“You won’t listen to this record and go, ‘Oh, he’s been listening to Little Feat!’ Bent chuckled. “But there are a few songs for sure that I was kind of going for that swampy… just that funk that they have. There’s a really cool tune called ‘Brooklyn, TX’ that I think we really nailed that vibe on that one.”
Since the release of 2005’s hick-hop classic Blam!, Bent has been making a name for himself on the Canadian country music scene for his smart songwriting and his slick recordings. He’s been in the running for Roots Artist or Group of the Year with the Canadian Country Music Association every year since 2009, an honour he hopes to lock down once Wild Card hits the highways and dirt streets in January. He’s also got some plans up his sleeve for a follow up to Blam!, but he’s playing those cards pretty close to his vest at present.
With a national release for Wild Card date set for late January, Bent and his crackerjack band are preparing for a long year of touring. Before that, though, Bent and the boys are looking to celebrate with a local release show at the Park Theatre. While plans, as of printing, are still being confirmed, Ridley’s hoping for something special to commemorate this one, including an all in poker tourney.
“[Because] there’s a lot of card playing tunes on this one, we’re hoping to throw a little poker tournament to go along with the release party,” says Bent, clearly keen on the idea. So get your poker faces ready, Winnipeg, and shine up your boots: Ridley Bent’s got a Wild Card up his sleeve.
Wild Card will be released soon across Canada, with a release show to come in April at the Park Theatre.