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Familiar ground

Dustin Bentall performing at the 34th annual Vancouver Folk Music Festival, July 15-17 at Jericho Beach Park and the 21st annual Harmony Arts Festival, July 29-Aug 1 in West Vancouver. For more information and full schedules go to www.thefestival.bc.

Dustin Bentall performing at the 34th annual Vancouver Folk Music Festival, July 15-17 at Jericho Beach Park and the 21st annual Harmony Arts Festival, July 29-Aug 1 in West Vancouver. For more information and full schedules go to and


After the show, he's almost always back in the hotel room jamming away with fellow musicians, passing songs back and forth like collectable cards.

At the Folk Fest, audiences will get a taste of what that's like, as the North Vancouver-raised country singer-songwriter will take Stage 3 with some of the festival's other acts on opening night.

"One-by-one somebody joins for a song, maybe somebody peels off, then it morphs into the next band, then they play a few songs, then they start," said Bentall, speaking from the home of his father, Canadian music icon Barney Bentall, on Bowen Island. "It's going to be this kind of liquid night of music.I'll be playing with Kendel Carson, so her and I, she'll be doing more than I will, I'll just be joining her for her set and we'll play a handful of my songs and hers.

"I've never done anything quite like this." It's a great place for musicians to mingle, as fans get up close and personal with the groups they love and so do the performers. In some cases, bands have even formed out of this sort of blind-date set-arrangements, as is the case with Delhi 2 Dublin.

While Dustin's name is the name on his two albums, most recently 2009's Six Shooter, he's also happy to talk about his band and friends who've helped him out in his musical career.

One of those is Luke Doucet, who lent his electric guitar skills to Six Shooter and left a real imprint on the songs.

"It definitely brought some excitement to the whole thing," said Dustin. Doucet and his band's lead guitarist Adam Dobres played off each other brilliantly, he added.

"He is just a monster on the guitar," said Dustin of Dobres. "He's one of the few

people who even a guy like Luke Doucet shakes his head at when he watches him play, he's just such a beautiful and crazy talent."

Being the son of Barney, who lead the Barney Bentall and the Legendary Hearts band to several major hits in the '90s, it might seem natural that Dustin is also a musician by trade. Dustin learned the guitar at age 12, getting tips from his dad, who he describes as a great teacher, but was working construction with no plans to step on stage prior to recording Streets With No Lights in 2005.

"When I'd go home at night and be too tired, my hands would be too beaten up, scraped up, cut and sore to play as much guitar as I wanted to," he said.

In 2004 he left his job building houses to do a cross-Canada road trip, and on the way back to Vancouver was involved in a frightening crash on Highway 1.

He was scraped, bruised and covered with stitches and his friend suffered a broken back, but surviving the wreck gave Dustin a new purpose.

"That really changed everything because we both weren't able to go back to our jobs, because of our injuries, so we were laid up for a while and that's sort of when I realized that maybe I wasn't supposed to go back to that job," said Dustin. In particular, seeing the car he was driving in woke him up to just how lucky he was.

"If you look at it, it just doesn't look like anybody could have walked away from it or survived what happened at all. It was such a miracle," he said. That's not to say Dustin's dad hasn't influenced his own music. Dustin distinctly remembers growing up surrounded by musicians, and his father introduced him to a lot of classic country and rock, much of it dating back to the '60s and '70s filled with names like Gram Parsons. Dustin looks back to those musicians much more than the names on the top of the charts of New Country, he said.

"That stuff just doesn't do it for me, I find it very trite, so obvious and so repetitive," he said. "But the old stuff, the George Jones and the Hank Williams and the Bob Wills and that stuff, that stuff is timeless."

He also pulls inspiration from time spent on the ranch his family owns in the Cariboo, where he's been visiting since he was 13 to clear his head of life in the city.

Admittedly, his hometown on the North Shore is a tough place to grow up a country fan, he said, but it hasn't stopped him.

That in some ways makes his second upcoming show all the sweeter, as he will play the Harmony Arts Festival later this month.

"The harmony arts is such a beautiful setting, to be down in John Lawson Park with the band outdoors in the middle of summer, that's going to be an awesome show," he said.