Review: Dierks Bentley ‘RISER’

From the opening strains of “Bourbon in Kentucky,” the mood is set for RISER, an album that Dierks Bentley describes as his most personal yet. Although the opening track was released as a single, it never quite took off, but sets the mood for an album of depth and reflection, sprinkled with humor and all held together by Bentley’s gravelly rasp.

Speaking to Rolling Stone, Bentley admits that this album comes from a different place than many of his others. Although previous endeavors touched on the heartbreak that ultimately comes with dating and relationships, this album comes from a different heartbreak, the death of his father, and the instability of life with the birth of his third child. “The record I had originally made, my dad was alive at the time and my wife and I had two kids. Life was stabilized,” Bentley says to the magazine. “And then all of a sudden my dad passed away. Then my wife got pregnant and my son was coming, which was just a whole mix of emotions for me.”

The album is truly a journey through Bentley’s psyche, highlighted immediately by his current single “I Hold On” and the equally-reflective “Here On Earth.” The former has Bentley clinging to things such as his old truck, his first guitar, his faith and his wife, while the latter was inspired by the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting and asks the bigger questions about life. “The only answer I’ve found for all this hurt,” Bentley sings, “Is there ain’t no answers here on Earth.”

The album’s title track may still have a serious, introspective tone, but it’s all about about hope and rising above adversity. Bentley quickly reminds listeners that “the hard times put the shine into the diamond.” Life may not always be easy, but Bentley won’t allow it to defeat him: He’s a survivor, a riser.  “Damn These Dreams” is an instant highlight of the album, beautifully illustrating Bentley being torn between the dreams of his career and his home life. “It’s hard to look true love in the eye and leave,” Bentley laments, highlighting an often ignored topic of balancing life as a musician and life as a husband and father. Bentley is at his finest here, his honest voice perfectly illustrating the longing of missing home, while needing to pursue his musical ambitions.

The album isn’t all gloom and doom, however. There’s “Pretty Girls,” a simple sing-song ode to “pretty girls drinking tall boys, swinging their hips to a country song.” Clearly, this song was written from Bentley’s perspective as he looks out at his audience from the stage. There’s also “Drunk On a Plane,” an ode to ill-fated honeymoon where rather than mourn the death of his relationship, he drowns out the pain, getting drunk on a plane. He’s “buying drinks for everybody, but the pilot, it’s a party, got the 737 rockin’ like a G-6.” Although a G-6 reference in a country song would usually make me roll my eyes, somehow Bentley makes it work here.

The party continues on “Sounds of Summer” and “Back Porch,” a pair of tracks that have me ready for flip-flops, even on a 30 degree day in February. It’s track like these that show Bentley in a class of his own among today’s country males. I’d like to see the current crop of bro-country singers put out “party” songs of such a high caliber.

Overall, RISER is sure to only further endear Bentley to the country music world. There are touches of party songs, there’s depth and emotion and there’s plan and simply, great music. This album only further proves that Bentley is an artist poised to bend and stretch the limits of what he’s capable of and we’re thankful for it. Listening to this album, we’re all risers.

Get the album now on iTunes: