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Father-son musicians Barney and Dustin Bentall talk about family business


TORONTO - With roughly three decades of experience in the music industry, Barney Bentall would seem well qualified to dispense advice to his musician son, Dustin.
But it's actually the elder Bentall who is giving credit to his son for leading the way.
"He gave me a new energy level in terms of what I'm doing," Barney Bentall told The Canadian Press in a recent interview alongside his son at a Toronto bar.
"Those guys (in Dustin's band) have been a really positive influence on me. They're great to hang out with. It doesn't seem like two generations when you bring the music together."
And that's just what the Bentalls are planning to do, with a series of shows together in British Columbia this month serving to support a pair of new albums.
The senior Bentall, 53, has just released "Inside Passage," an introspective album of countrified roots-rock that bears a resemblance to "Six Shooter," the second album from his 26-year-old son's Dustin Bentall Outfit.
Aside from the stylistic similarities in sound, father and son share a fascination with a Wild West motif that Dustin says has to do with his father's purchasing a cattle ranch in British Columbia.
"I was about 13 years old, so at that age I kind of got thrown into a bit of the country lifestyle after having grown up in the city," he recalled. "You're pretty impressionable at that age, and I completely fell in love with it: being around horses and rodeos and trying to be a cowboy."
Music was also a constant for Dustin. He grew up watching his dad play with the Legendary Hearts, with whom Barney published one platinum album and three others that were certified gold in the late '80s and early '90s.
Dustin played music from his early teens. Barney saw the signs but said he stayed out of the way.
"Music is not a family business," said Barney, who's a father of four. "But I could tell at a certain point, I could see those tumblers clicking."
In fact, it was a life-threatening car accident that spurred Dustin to take on music as a full-time career.
In the summer of 2004 he was working a construction job and writing music on the side. Restless, he and a friend decided to drive across the country and back. Just as he was arriving home in Vancouver, he was involved in a head-on collision.
He suffered an array of cuts and bruises, lost a tooth and missed some work. But he also gained perspective.
"It just changed everything," he said. "I had a lot of time to sit and think about what's important, and what's going to make me feel good.
"If I could come that close to losing my life, it could just be gone just like that. So why would I choose to make money and not be as happy over doing something that I'm seriously passionate about?"
His dad prides himself on not being meddlesome, yet he seems to believe Dustin made the right choice.
"The last thing I ever wanted to be was a stage mom," Barney said. "(Or) to give a lot of advice, because I think that, in many ways, interferes with an artist pursuing their vision. He knows I'm always there."
"(But) I think for him, it's this wonderful vehicle of self-expression. I could kind of tell that he wanted to do it. ... I just kept watching it unfold. It was great. You've gotta have a certain kind of mental toughness. I love watching it. It makes me quite happy."
Barney, meanwhile, says he was in a contemplative mood when crafting the songs for his new record, which he dedicated to his own father, Howard, who died last year.
"I'm at a time in my life when I think you do get a bit more reflective," he said. "I started, I guess, reflecting on one person moving through life. I'm getting to a different phase of life.
"Having Dust do what he's doing makes me ponder these other things."
Perhaps unsurprisingly, each is a fan of the other's new record - Barney calls Dustin's album "a quantum jump in maturity," while Dustin says "I think Barn followed his heart, maybe the most out of any record he's made."
It's rare to see a review of Dustin that doesn't mention his father, but he says he doesn't mind the comparisons.
"No, and that has a lot do with the old man's reputation too," he said. "There's not a lot of burned bridges that I had to come and sweep up the ashes. He's got a pretty strong reputation across the country."
But he's also quick to point out that there are plenty of differences between the two men - beginning with their upbringing.
"He grew up the son of a Baptist minister, and I grew up the son of a rock star," Dustin said. "So it's gonna be a little different."
Laughing, Barney added: "My dad was a preacher, and there was that element of it in there. I had a lot of demons to work through."
"I think," replied Dustin, "it was a lot easier for me to get into music than it was for him."

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