Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Dierks Bentley "Riser" Album Review

     Dierks Bentley has released his much anticipated album Riser.  Dierks has always been a strong force in country music, walking the fine line between pop and tradition with grace and respect.  Dierks has been able to sell music in today's world while still remaining rooted in country's past and that is saying something.  Dierks recorded this album during an emotional whirlwind, as he lost his father and  welcomed his son into the world during the recording process.  The result is an album that comes from the heart and really catches your attention and your ear.

     The album kicks off with the dark and moody "Bourbon in Kentucky" (Full "Bourbon In Kentucky" Single Review Here).  The song never took off on country radio, but really honed in on the dark places that portions of this album would take us.  A lot of the album features heavy, sad material.  "Here On Earth" is a emotional ride that deals with loss and the feelings of confusion and struggle that follow.  Dierks was in a lot of those places over the past year, I'm sure, so when he sings this song you really feel the connection he made with it.  Other songs like "Five" and "Say You Do" are about lost love and the yearning to get said love back.  Both songs are pretty solid and have a lot of depth and emotion to them.  "Hurt Somebody" closes out the album with a touch of brightness in another dark song.  He knows that the focal girl of the song is going to hurt somebody, but he longs for it to be him.  "Hurt Somebody" features a fantastic fiddle accompaniment, paired with acoustic guitar to make a rootsy sound that keeps tradition in the forefront.  It's one of my favorites of the album.  Even some of the fun songs take on a dark tone.  "Drunk On A Plane" is one half typical frat-boy party song, but with a sad backstory about leaving for the honeymoon he booked for two all alone, and taping his lost love's picture to the seat while he drinks to a stupor in the sky.  It has a lot of the drinking cliches tossed in, but its still a boost up from the other party songs on the radio.   The title track "Riser" is Dierks' line in the sand, the point where he states he can rise above all the hurt and sadness in his life.  It makes for an inspiring love song that feels like Dierks lived every word.  Curiously, it's one of only three tracks he didn't co-write.

     "Damn These Dreams" is the shining star on the album.  A understated, acoustic song about the constant torment between chasing his dreams and staying with his family.  I am not a singer, I don't leave my family to go on the road and sing, but I know what he means when he talks of the struggle of wanting to live his dreams and build his life.  Everyone has that same struggle.  It may not be a music career, but we've all had to make decisions to give up our dreams at one point or another.   Dierks describes his love of country music and his love of family as conflicting forces inside of him and brings it to life in this song.  If you only download one song from this album, this is the one to hear.

     Another shining moment is the current single "I Hold On".  The song explores the things that Dierks holds dear in his life, from the truck he drove with his dad, to the guitar he played in the bars as he built his career, to the love of his family.  It's a perfect symbol for where Dierks is at in his life right now.  He is looking forward to new music and new family members, but holding on to the memory of his dad and the music that brought him here.  It is an emotional, heartfelt song that really exposes what is best about country music.  I love it. (Full "I Hold On" Single Review Here)

     Of course, there are a few clunkers, but they are forgiven.  "Sounds of Summer", Pretty Girl", and "Back Porch" could pretty much be the same song rewritten over and over.  Based off some of Dierks' comments, however, I believe he was coaxed into recording these songs.   He basically said that the album he originally recorded was reworked after "Bourbon in Kentucky" flopped on the radio, and "Sounds of Summer", "Drunk on A Plane", and "Pretty Girls" were added to the record.  He claims it was a good thing, but I bet that's just Dierks being a trooper for his album.  To this simple country blogger, it looks like a classic case of "your sad crap didn't sell, so put some fluff and pep in there for us and we will let you keep the rest of the album".  Dierks has had some incredible freedom over his time at Capitol Records, putting bluegrass songs on albums, recording with Del McCoury, The Grascals, and Patty Griffin, even recording an entire bluegrass themed album.  He has to give a little if he is going to take a little, and these songs wreak of that.  I'm not a fan of the songs, but I'm not going to beat him up over them.  I get what is going on.

     Riser is an emotional album from start to finish.  Dierks Bentley found the best kind of therapy and the best outlet for your feelings is making country music.  It has its bumps, but Riser is a solid country album I would recommend to anybody.  Dierks continues his role as the lead ambassador from roots to mainstream country by keeping feet firmly placed in both sides.  Thank you for letting us travel though your ups and downs with you, and most importantly, thank you for keeping it country!

Standout Tracks: "I Hold On", "Damn These Dreams", "Bourbon In Kentucky", "Here On Earth", "Riser", "Hurt Somebody"

"Bourbon in Kentucky"

"I Hold On"

"Damn These Dreams"

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