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Dierks Bentley

Modern Day Drifter – 2005 (Capitol)

Reviewed by Jon Weisberger

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CDs by Dierks Bentley

If Dierks Bentley's self-titled 2003 debut heralded the arrival of a promising young artist, his new album trumpets that he's made considerable progress in fulfilling that promise. While he's not as compelling singer as some of his peers, Bentley makes the most of what he's got in the vocal department, shows marked improvement in already impressive songwriting skills and-togetherwith producer and pal Brett Beavers presents the results through a savvyblend of classic country and bluegrass influences with edgy, modernproduction values.

That's a tough balancing act, but Bentley pulls it off without a hitch, fromthe opening, Waylon-ish country-rocker, "Lot Of Leavin' Left To Do" to themelancholy, surprise-laden "Gonna Get There Someday," with its gorgeoustriple fiddles, that closes the CD. There are some party-hearty trifles, alove song or two, a healthy dose of honky-tonkers, and the Del McCoury Bandreprises their appearance on the first album with spirited support on Del'sown song, "Good Man Like Me."

It's possible that the radio-friendly stuff will repel alt.countryenthusiasts who would otherwise enjoy Bentley's classic influences, and thatthe grassy touches will leave a sour taste on listeners who see nothing ofvalue outside of the Top 40, but if so, that's their loss. Bentley'scrafted an outstanding album that reflects a mature and uncompromised visionof what 21st century country music can be.