Dierks Bentley collided with the country music scene back in 2003 with his hit single “What Was I Thinkin” and has been a staple in the genre ever since. For me, he’s always been one of those artists that I liked when he came on the radio, but I never really sought out his music other than that. These past two years, that has definitely change. There’s been a shift in his writing, the production of his songs, as well as the overall content. The shift is more emotional, less radio ready party songs and more songs that mean something, that tell a story. Songs that adhere to what country music is truly about.
Riser has been highly anticipated for months now, longer even, I can remember being excited to hear this album during CMA Fest last year in June. Upon the release of Bourbon In Kentucky (featuring country darling, Kacey Musgraves on background vocals) fans and critics alike were hearing whispers about what the new album would be like. It’s no secret that Bentley has been dealing with major life changes, including losing his father, whom he was very close to, in 2012 and the birth of his first child. Our first glimpse into this personal new direction came with the release of his newest single, I Hold On, which deals with the crippling desperation to hold on to every memory around you because you can’t hold on to the person or moment you lived in forever.
Other personal cuts on the album include Damn These Dreams, in which Bentley struggles with leaving his family for work, a song he believes more than just musicians can relate to. It’s becomes clear that it’s important for him that listeners can relate to what he’s writing about, much of the reason he allows himself to dive deep on Riser and explore topics he may have avoided before. One of the standout tracks for me is the emotional ballad, Here On Earth, which dives into the questions and reflective moments of despair you feel after losing someone you love very much. He puts into words the struggle that everyone on earth has gone through, the questions and the loss of faith, the fears that are instilled in us the moment we suffer that loss. For me, this song marks Dierks Bentley as a songwriter who has an emotional grasp on his own life, but can turn that around and make it something universally understood.
The entire album isn’t all dark and deep. He still has those moments where he rocks out and has fun with the music, making for a well balanced record. Drunk On A Plane is one of those. After being left at the alter, a man takes his honeymoon trip by himself, partying it up on the plane to try and forget her. With lines like “It’s mardi gras up in the clouds, I’m up so high I can’t come down…” you know that you’re about to have a damn good time. There’s the uplifting title track, Riser, about pushing through the hard times by leaning on the ones you love and continuing to fight against the obstacles that life throws at you. It’s an anthem for anyone going through hard times (which is everyone, at some point), encouraging us all to survive the darkness. No matter what it may be. Sounds of Summer is a perfect radio single, a celebration of sunny days and leaving everything behind for one of those summer days by the water with your best friends. It’s a song that would do well on country radio if only because of the content, considering what gets play most often, it would fit perfectly.
There isn’t a single sleeper on the album, whether it’s an intense personal ballad or a fun summer song, Dierks Bentley presents a well rounded album that will appeal to every country music fan. While I wasn’t always his biggest fan, he’s won me over with this album, he’s made me feel like he’s discovered his sound and his place as a songwriter. His strengths come together to make an action packed, personal album, that I urge everyone to take a listen to. This is already one of my favorite albums of 2014. I’m really excited to see what this year brings for Dierks Bentley.
You can buy Riser here.
Must Listen: Here On Earth, Drunk On A Plane, Riser, Damn These Dreams
What are your favorite songs off of Riser? Let us know by dropping us a comment or tweeting us @JukeboxMixtape.