For a decade, every single Dierks Bentley release placed at least in Billboard's Country Top 20, usually making it to the Top Ten. That streak came to an end in 2013, when "Bourbon in Kentucky" -- the first single from his in-the-works seventh album, Riser, and a duet with 2013's hot star Kacey Musgraves to boot -- stiffed, going no further than 40 on the country charts. Such a thing doesn't happen to a big country star, so action needed to be taken: Bentley revised Riser, adding some levity to an album that nevertheless remains highly contemplative.
Dierks BentleyRiser(Capitol Records Nashville)3. 5 out of 5 stars For much of his career, Dierks Bentley has operated as something of a throwback, a country crooner with more traditionalist tendencies who somehow manages to rub shoulders on radio with the genre’s more modern incarnations. On Riser, Bentley trades some of that distinction for his own foray into a more modern rock-imbued arena-country, and while it takes away part of what makes the singer stand out, it also also underscores that he can do anything they can do and do it better.
There are 12 songs on Riser. Three are anonymous and not very good party jams. Six are about heartbreak and run from decent to brilliant. Two are nostalgic, trying to work out the same tensions that Keith Urban does on his new single “Cop Car”. Neither Urban nor Bentley has the virtues of ….
Forget hard times – these days, too many country stars are just looking for the party. Compared to what gets played on country radio, Dierks Bentley can almost sound like a traditionalist, with his hickory voice and songs about drinking, and whose tones range on his seventh album from tormented ("Bourbon in Kentucky") to goofy ("Drunk on a Plane"). And to his credit, when he sings about his truck on "I Hold On," it's a heartfelt tribute to a well-built thing that reminds him of his dead dad.
He isn’t as flashy as some of his peers in the contemporary country arena, but Dierks Bentley has built impressive success — 10 number-one songs — on bedrock concepts that feel more quaint all the time: musicianship, emotional integrity, and hard work. Those elements again make themselves known on his stirring seventh album, “Riser. ” While Bentley does traffic some in the small-town nostalgia and tip-it-on-back party anthems that are obligatory au courant Nashville currency — and a mainstay of the genre since its inception — he generally employs a less formulaic touch, making songs like “Five” feel like true personal reminiscences, not calculated crowd pleasers.
On first listening to Beck’s placid, self-possessed 12th studio album, “Morning Phase,” I did not look him up on Wikipedia to see if he’d broken up with his wife. I was not fully functional: The record’s beauty approaches slowly, floats, surrounds and shuts off external awareness in the brain stem. But I did look him up eventually — he hadn’t — and the reason was that it sounds like “Sea Change,” his 2002 album that was recorded after a breakup.