Dierks Bentley’s previous album ‘Riser’, released back in 2014, was our favourite album of the year and will truly take some beating. It produced a string of smash-hits including ‘I Hold On’, ‘Say You Do’ and of course ‘Drunk On A Plane’. It was an iconic album; a masterpiece from start to finish. Now, Dierks is back with his new project ‘BLACK’, which he describes as “a relationship album that covers the ups and downs of the journey and ends with some self-realization and evolvement”.
It really does illustrate a rollercoaster of emotions along the way. The album kicks off with the title track, ‘BLACK’, an atmospheric depiction of life before a relationship, where the man in question is being driven into immense frustration by his desire for a girl. “Make my world go black, hit me like a heart attack, knock me flat on my back”. The thumping back beat draws you in from the first second and reflects the sheer anger and desperation behind the song. It’s tailor-made for a Dierks concert, and it’s a sublime way to start the album.
It ties in rather nicely with ‘I’ll Be The Moon’, Dierks’ duet with rising country star Maren Morris. Fans might be familiar with this one already, as the video for this was released a few weeks ago. Another one originating from the depths of despair with such atmospheric, almost haunting instrumentation that hits you like a tonne of bricks. It’s written about a man’s secret connection with a woman in a relationship, leaving him frustrated and wanting more. “I don’t wanna be a liar, I don’t wanna be a fool, I don’t wanna be a secret but I will if you want me to”. The addition of Maren Morris’ gorgeous vocals is a master-stroke as their vocals blend seamlessly, contributing to one of the stand-out tracks on the album.
The album moves in a different direction with ‘Somewhere On A Beach’ and ‘Freedom’. The former is currently the #1 song on country radio, already a smash-hit and an ideal way to launch the new album. It’s almost the prequel to ‘Drunk On A Plane’, with a very similar anthemic chorus, fun lyrics and all-round party feel. It’s also the next step in the journey of the narrator, describing the start of a relationship where you don’t have a care in the world. “Got a new girl, she got it going on, we drink all day and party all night”.
‘Freedom’ is a personal favourite; a powerful anthem about breaking free from your troubles. “We all wanna break the chains, feel the wind against our face, everybody wants the same thing, we wanna taste that freedom”. It’s absolutely begging to be performed live and the chorus was clearly written with the live show in mind. We had the pleasure of watching Dierks perform ‘Freedom’ at the Eventim Apollo a few weeks ago in London, and it’s definitely where the song reaches its full potential.
‘Rose and a Time Machine’ is written from the perspective of someone struggling to getting over a relationship, looking back at what could have been. This one is full of attitude and passion. Not a favourite of ours; there are much better tracks on offer here, but it’s certainly one that grabs attention. “I need something that’ll take me back to the night she left, re-wind the sound of every step, I wanna watch her walking backwards back to me……what I really need are roses and a time machine”. Quirky, and one that might grow on us, but it’s not Dierks at his best.
‘Mardi Gras’ is a real curveball. Dierks Bentley featuring Trombone Shorty….you’re thinking ‘strange’, right? It’s certainly different and certainly an ‘experimental’ track, shall we say, but one that could potentially be a hit. You have a mixture of typical country/bluegrass instruments with a trombone – it’s a difficult concoction to get your head around. But it’s incredibly catchy and really gets under your skin, particularly the guitar riff that’s the real hook in the song.
The best song on the album by a mile is the final track ‘Can’t Be Replaced’. A song co-written by Dierks, Hillary Lindsey and Luke Laird is never going to disappoint. An introspective reflection on all the valuable things in life that must never be taken for granted. It tugs at the heart strings, and Dierks’ dog Jake even gets a mention in the last verse. “For fifteen years right by my side, from a single man to three kids and a wife, friends come and go but when it comes to Jake, there’s just some things that can’t be replaced”. It’s the conclusion to the journey; love has its ups and downs but it all works out well in the end. Stunning – classic Dierks.
‘BLACK’ doesn’t hit the heights that his previous album ‘Riser’ hit, but it would take one hell of an album to compete with that. It’s still an impressive collection of songs that will please Dierks’ loyal fan base, each with their own distinct qualities. They all have their place on the album and all of them are pieces in the jigsaw of life that Dierks is trying to portray. There are certainly four or five tracks here that could potentially be big hits if released as singles, and the potential for live shows is immense.