Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Album Review-Black: Dierks Bentley's Most Soulful Album Yet

Imagine climbing Everest in the dark, feeling your way up the arduous mountain, holding on to a rope notched with 13 beautifully-laced loops along the way.  That's how I feel listening to Black.  I can’t see a thing, but Dierks Bentley is pulling me along, making me feel one song at a time, each one taking me higher and deeper into the intelligent uniqueness of Dierk’s eighth studio album.

Take a trip with me and DB Congress Chart Reporter, Carrie Srebro, as we try to put our feelings about this body of work into words.

: Written by Ashley Gorley, Ross Copperman and Dierks Bentley

There have been quite a few overtly sexual songs released to country radio over the past few years, which I’m personally not a fan of. What ever happened to leaving something to the imagination? But I think Dierks does a good job here of keeping it sexy but not overdoing it. I also really like the production on this song. I can see this being single #3. –Carrie Srebro (NC)

I still maintain this sensual song will replace Come A Little Closer as his signature love song.  The echo throughout positions the listener right in the moment.  Here, black is not nothing, but everything—no need to see, just feel.  I don’t wanna see a thing, I just wanna feel your love...Make my world go black.   –Ronna Clark (FL)

Watch Dierks intro the songwriters then perform "Black" at Highline Ballroom, NYC, 5/25/16:

Pick Up
: Written by Jaren Johnston, Jimmy Robbins and Andrew Dorff

I liked this song when it was pre-released, but the more I listen to the album, the more I LOVE this song. I feel like Dierks sings the hell out of this one, you can really hear his frustration. And this is a pretty universal theme, but also one that hasn’t been done a million times, either. I’d be totally fine if this were to become a single, but I don’t see it falling that way. – CS

Clever, crafty songwriting!  Dierks said in an interview that his wife “screens” his calls, so he can relate to such a relatable story—who doesn’t get frustrated or worried when the person you’re calling won’t pick up the phone! Nothing more irritating, and you just want to hear their voice no matter what. Vocally and emotionally, Dierks nailed this one. -RC

I’ll Be The Moon (featuring Maren Morris)
Written by Heather Morgan, Matt Dragstrem and Ryan Hurd

Easily one of my favorite songs on the album. Maren and Dierks complement each other nicely and both sing the song well. You can feel the heartache and sadness. It’s so pleasant to listen to.  –CS

How could a story of a secret love triangle sound so sweet and forlorn at the same time?  Easy—get Dierks Bentley and Maren Morris to sing it as a duet!  The narrative explores subject matter from a unique perspective and I hope it becomes a single and radio plays it all the way to #1.  Nobody else can match this extraordinary effort.  -RC

Watch Dierks and Jessi Alexander perform "I'll Be The Moon" at Highline Ballroom, NYC, 5/25/16:

What The Hell Did I Say:  Written by Ross Copperman, Josh Kear and Chris Tompkins

This one has grown on me immensely since being a pre-release track. Once I listened to it in the car, I was sold, haha! I love a good song to jam to, and this one doesn’t disappoint. It’s super catchy, and Dierks hinted it may be a future single on SiriusXM The Highway. –CS

Ross Copperman’s oriental sounding treatment gives it a diverseness only Dierks could pull off.  And how different that the girl actually LIKED “every single word you left on my phone.”  Love the creative new verbs—Did I say we’d go shoppin, that I’d Louis Vuitton her, That I’d Rodeo Drive her slide a Tiffany diamond on her.”  Is that like new math?  Kudos to Ross, Josh and Chris.  The chorus is infectious and I find myself singing it at the top of my lungs at red lights. -RC

Watch Dierks perform "What The Hell Did I Say" at Highline Ballroom, NYC, 5/25/16:

Somewhere On A Beach:  Written by Michael Tyler, Jaron Boyer, Alexander Palmer, Dave Kuncio and Josh Mirenda

Still not my favorite, but damn, did this song blow up and get the job done for leading off this album with some serious momentum. And in the context of the full album, it doesn’t sound out of place at all. –CS

When I heard this was the first single from the new album, I was disappointed to say the least.  Another bro song? Really?  I know Dierks has so much more depth, but I also know radio needed something for the masses.   And sure enough, SOAB climbed quickly and spent two weeks at #1 and three weeks on the Hot Country Songs chart and is still in the top ten this week—four months later!  The song has really grown on me and I sing along happily now.  And yes, it is perfectly placed as chapter five in Dierks’ book of Black. -RC

Freedom:  Written by Ashley Gorley, Ross Copperman and Dierks Bentley

This song makes me want to skip along and bop to it. Obviously a theme that’s been done before, but I love how anthemic and sing-along this is. Once more people are familiar with it, this should be a highlight of the live show. Definitely single worthy. –CS

Paying homage to our US military—that flag on a soldier’s sleeve—is always a popular theme.  Makes me feel very patriotic.  That, and all the singing about all freedoms we enjoy because of those soldiers.  I can see this going over big on tour and can already hear the audience singing it at the top of their lungs.  That ticket to your favorite show/Getting’ lost in the rock n roll.  -RC

Why Do I Feel:  Written by Dan Wilson, Ross Copperman and Dierks Bentley

This is where the album kind of hits the brakes for me. Lyrically and vocally (as in, Dierks sounds good), I like this song. But I don’t like the sparse production at all. When I hear the opening piano, I immediately expect to hear Luke’s “Strip it Down” and that’s not really a comparison I enjoy making. I’ve been trying to get more into the song, but the R&B cadence and vocal style aren’t working for me. –CS

When I hear the piano intro, I hear a matureness in Dierks’ music that easily fits in today’s all-genre world.  The production is distinctly Ross Copperman-crafted.  The second verse gets all the way to me—Dierks’ voice at its gritty finest: Trying to find pain, where there’s only love…And when I get more, it’s never enough.  I love the reverberation in the melody and the subtle dobro—that works for me!  I can’t wait for the vinyl version so I can start with Side B! - RC

Roses And A Time Machine:  Written by Luke Dick and Adam James

I think I’m the only person who likes this song. It’s quirky and funky, but I find the lyrics to be self-deprecating and self-aware – the dude knows he screwed up and at least he’s able to make fun of himself. –CS

No, you’re not the only one, Carrie!  This is the old-school Dierks that we know and love!  Co-writer Luke Dick delivered this tongue-in-cheek tune at the Highline Ballroom Songwriters show May 25 and the whole room was laughing and singing along half-way through. Best regret song ever!  Great rhymes—edumacation/relations.  Is THAT what a time machine sounds like?  Cool vibe, Ross Copperman!   I can see a black hole/time travel treatment video for this song—what do you say, Wes Edwards? –RC

Watch Luke Dick perform "Roses And A Time Machine" at Highline Ballroom, NYC, 5/25/16:

All The Way to Me:  Written by Luke Dick, Scooter Carusoe and Dierks Bentley

This song is like your favorite pair of worn in jeans. It feels so good. It’s like if Lot of Leavin’ Left to Do and Free & Easy had a baby. I love it. It just feels so… DIERKS. The production is like a nod to “old” Dierks, the lyrics are SO Dierks – really this is like a continuation of I Hold On and I just love everything about it. Super high on my list of album highlights for sure. (And I would do a lot to hear a bluegrass version of this. I bet that would be killer.) –CS

Hard to believe the same guy who wrote Roses, also penned this page right out of Bentley’s boyhood morphing into adulthood.  When I first heard this and saw the background video on Apple Music, I couldn’t help but think of Kansas Ambassador and country artist, Logan Mize (Somethin’ ‘bout starlight on Kansas/ The way a wheat field dances), yet distinctly Dierks.  This song demonstrates how deeply he feels about the influences in his life (Cass and the kids).  Favorite line: Somethin’ ‘bout me and her and how our love turned into brown eyes lookin’ up/The sound of hardwood floors on little feet.   Bluegrass version gets my vote, too!- RC

Different For Girls (Featuring Elle King):  Written by Shane McAnally and J.T. Harding

Another great duet. I think the duets on this album are my favorites of Dierks’ career so far. I know there’s a lot of brouhaha over the lyrics and the over-generalization of male behavior, but Dierks himself even said he sucks at being a “dude” when it comes to heartache, so I’m not going to read too much into it. This song sounds great, and I think this is a moment on the album where Dierks is really saying “you know, I’m raising two daughters now, and I look at these things differently than I used to.” And I also like the idea that it’s the douchey bro from SOAB having an introspective moment, too. Love this and I hope it’s a huge hit for him. –CS

A guy takes up for a girl – yes please!  This may not have been written by Dierks, but it’s true to the core of his character.  He has said many times he can relate to how girls handle heartbreak because it’s kind of like he has reacted in the past.  Remember Yeah, 'cause I've lost weight and I've lost hair/And I don't intend to ever go back there/Drinkin' and a-thinkin' 'bout a love that just wasn't true (Forget About You)?  Yeah—that was autobiographical.  Thank you Shane McAnally for thinking of Dierks for this song.  And thanks, Dierks, for thinking of Elle King’s (daughter of Rob Schneider and London King) exceptional voice.  Perfect duet and harmonies.  The unique lyrics tell an honest story of guys and girls reacting to break-ups so differently; different than any other song on the radio right now.  DFG should easily be his 15th number one single.  Favorite line: She don’t scroll through her phone just lookin’ for a band-aid. -RC

Mardi Gras (Featuring Trombone Shorty):  Written by Natalie Hemby, Steve Moakler and Dierks Bentley

I wasn’t too sure about this one when I listened to the album the first time, but wow, has it grown on me. It is so catchy, and again, I think Dierks kills the vocal on this one. I’ve had this song in my head a lot since Friday. –CS

While the production and melody remind me of Mardi Gras, the title is a metaphor for a girl who trashed the guy’s heart just like the streets of New Orleans the day after the real Mardi Gras. The trombone sliding of Trombone Shorty is the perfect action to tell this guy-done-wrong song.  Lyrical imagery abounds, painting the perfect charade picture.  Favorite line:  Strung me right along like lights on a balcony.

Light It Up: Written by Jessi Alexander, Ross Copperman and Dierks Bentley

This is another great track. I really like the spiritual metaphors. The production is perhaps a bit louder than it needs to be here, but it’s still a really great song, and one I wouldn’t mind seeing as a single, but it’s a bit similar thematically to HOLY by FGL so they’ll probably steer clear. –CS

Loved this song since I heard Dierks sing part of it acoustically on The Bobby Bones Show.  Vocally and melodically, the chorus soars and is much stronger than the verses.  Conversely, the lyrics in the verses are brilliantly written!  I used to get numb on a whiskey remedy/But then your spirit poured in like a symphony.  It’s apparent his angel (wife Cassidy) lights ups his soul! Co-writer Jessi and Dierks sang “Light It Up” at the Highline Ballroom in NYC last week. –RC

Here's a short clip of Dierks and Jessi performing "Light It Up" at Highline Ballroom, NYC, 5/25/16:

Can’t Be Replaced:  Written by Hillary Lindsey, Luke Laird and Dierks Bentley

Not much to say here that hasn’t already been said by basically everyone ever, but this is a fantastic song. First of all, I could talk about those dobro solos all day long. They’re gorgeous. Everything about this song is just perfectly executed. Definitely one of the best songs of his career. –CS

Whether its things or people, we all have memories of the images this song conjures up—totally saw my teen years flash before my eyes—Levi jacket, spinnin’ that bottle, Memorex mixtape and Boone’s Farm kiss.  Totally agree with the dobro solos, too—beautiful.  This may never be a single, although Dierks has said he would like it to be.  Our heart goes out to Jake who has been there with him since the beginning. -RC

If you want to feel every emotion in life, be sure to take Bentley’s Black along on your mountainous trek. It will seep into your soul, light it up and transcend you.

Ronna Clark
DB Congress Chair (FL)