Dierks Bentley - Gravel & Gold
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Gravel & Gold (Universal, 2023)

Dierks Bentley

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

Dierks Bentley opens his first self-produced album with a song about personally stability, "Same Ol' Me." Although its lyric explains how while life circumstances may change, Bentley basically remains the same person. The same thing, though, can also be said about the country star's music. He's been recording for 20 years now. Yet Bentley has come this far with his integrity still intact. He's back with a strong, 14-song set that, like a good beverage, feels good going all the way down.

Guitarist Billy Strings joins Bentley for the apocalyptic (or should we say 'a-pot-alyptic' "High Note," as it concerns getting high on Willie's finest in order face the world's end), along with bluegrass masters, Jerry Douglas (Dobro), Sam Bush (mandolin), Charlie Worsham (guitar) and Bryan Sutton (guitar/banjo) for a good old time blue-grassy workout. While this release isn't wall-to-wall bluegrass, like his "Up on the Ridge" was, acoustic/bluegrass instrumentation informs many of these tracks, as do traditional country sounds. Bentley is clearly feeling his country roots with this full-length.

There isn't a bad cut in the bunch, so you won't have to skip any tracks. Bentley is able to slide naturally from the serious ("Something Real") to the slightly silly ("Beer At My Funeral"), yet still sound like the same ol' Bentley. Even the guest appearances are a good fit. In addition to Strings, Ashley McBryde is just the right cowgirl partner for "Cowboy Boots."

Bentley admits to a couple of failed attempts before tracking and releasing "Gravel & Gold." Few probably know how those 'misses' actually came out. However, this released effort is one of Bentley's very best. He certainly struck artistic gold with it.

CDs by Dierks Bentley

Gravel & Gold, 2023 Black, 2016 Riser, 2014 Up on the Ridge, 2010 Feel That Fire, 2009 Greatest Hits: Every Mile A Memory 2003-2008, 2008 Long Trip Alone, 2006 Modern Day Drifter, 2005

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