If you look at the covers of Modern Day Drifter and Riser you will see the face of a man who has grown up; one who has seen birth as well as death and is at a point where he is assessing his life to date. Bentley’s career means that he is still a drifter but he is a man now with a home and a family. He loves the road and he loves his family life and he now has to balance the two, knowing that each has it's place even if each has an effect on the other.
Production sounds and mainstream country radio also put their demands on the music. Bentley has made no secret of his love for bluegrass music and just sitting and learning in the Station Inn, but these are different times and country music is now, for many, an offshoot of hard and southern rock. More Hank Jr than Hank Sr. It makes you wonder what this younger audience would make of Jason and The Scorchers.
Much of this news direction leaves me cold but recently albums by the likes of Gary Allen and this new album from Bentley seem to have got the balance better. Don't get me wrong; I come from a rock background so when I listen to country music I want to hear, for the most part, country music as I recognise it, not watered down big hair-metal. But I keep an open mind and listen.
On this album Bentley works with Ross Copperman and he delivers a powerful sound and a set of songs that suit Bentley and where he is right now. Some of the songs seem like they're chasing radio's current obsessions like Pretty Girls. Yet that is a song co-written by Bentley, Jessi Alexander and Jon Randall. Here on Earth, on the other hand, talks about the reality of life on earth in which there are no answers a lot of the time, and hope and faith are crucial to survival.
Other songs like Drunk on a Plane and Bourbon In Kentucky are forged in the fire of the honky-tonk's cure-all pain relief delivered from the bottom of a glass. OK, they don't sound like pure honky-tonk, but offer instead an update on what was a country music staple theme, but in a contemporary way. The sound is delivered by a set of fine players including Dan Dugmore, Mickey Raphael, Bryan Sutton and electric guitarists Jedd Hughes, Kenny Greenberg and Charlie Worsham among others while the background vocalists include Kacey Musgraves and Chris Stapelton, all players who all understand the past and the future.
Dierks Bentley is to be congratulated for gathering all the various music influences that he has grown up with into a mature album. Back Porch updates the bluegrass sounds of Bentley’s Up On The Ridge album by adding some stinging guitar to the banjo sounds. The album closes with a quieter, more acoustic sounding Hurt Somebod,y a song about a heartbreak where the singer hopes the lady in question will end up having a relationship, even it will end up hurting him. There is much on Riser that comes from the heart and delivers it with a sound that is a development of the music Bentley has made from the start which makes an album that is about him at this time and about the fans who have grown with him.