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Dierks Bentley’s last album, the Grammy-nominated, bluegrass-flavored “Up On the Ridge,” showcased a previously hidden depth and it seems to have given the country singer an extra boost of confidence that he carries into “Home,” his sixth studio album for Capitol Records.
The set, out Feb. 7, has already spawned two hits: the chart topping “Am I The Only One,” and the thoughtful patriotic title track, which was informed by the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords and others in Bentley’s home state of Arizona.
[More after the jump...]
Plus, it’s clear that at least two other tunes, the rambunctious “5-1-5-0” and sexy “Breathe You In,” are destined for chart heights.
There is plenty on “Home” for Bentley fans to enjoy. The previously mentioned, good-timing “Am I The Only One,” is the tale of an unrepentant bad boy, whose buddies are long past their barfly days. “5-1-5-0,” police code for crazy, as Van Halen fans know, is a stone-cold Bentley smash that will take the country club dance floors by storm.
Bentley has already proven that he does sex well on past hits as “Come A Little Closer” and “I Wanna Make You Close Your Eyes.” This album’s equivalent is “Breathe You In,” a fine addition to the Bentley Bedroom Tapes.
His voice, while not particularly rangey, is distinctive and expressive, whether he’s headed to the bar or to the bedroom (there are seldom points in between for DB). Everything Bentley sings, and this is surely a large part of his appeal to the ladies, sounds sexy. On the slow burn of “Tip It On Back,” is a mandolin-sweetened tale of drinking to forget your troubles, he sings “I feel the sweet release of a Friday night/ for a couple of hours gonna run this town until it runs dry/tip it on back, make it feel good, sip a little more than you know you should.” Seldom has liquor had such a seductive pitchman.
A few tunes on “Home” address the domestic bliss that Bentley has settled into over the last few years. On the tongue-in-cheek “Diamonds Make Babies,” Bentley warns of the slippery slope from engagement to wedding to parenthood to henpecked in a way that narrowly avoids cliche by its cleverness.
He comes down squarely as a member of the Daddy Bunch on album closer, ”Thinking Of You,” which opens with his little daughter Evie reciting the first verse in the type of move that will have parents cooing and non-parents hitting the “skip” button.
Not everything’s a winner: “The Woods,” a song about getting away from it all that replaces the Las Vegas tagline “What happens in the Vegas, stays in Vegas,” with “What happens in the woods, stays in the woods,” just sounds leaden and cliche. While exquisite musically, “Heart Of A Lonely Girl’s” lyrics are a bit retro for the 2010s, especially the line “like a red-tail fox to a blue tick hound, she’s the prettiest thing for miles around” (although the song has an interesting twist at the end).
The one quibble is that Bentley’s raspy, gruff voice has made him a star, and, yet for all his hits, he has yet to have the type of runaway smash that passes over to transcendent... and “Home” does nothing to change that.
Granted, modern classics along the lines of “The Dance,” “The House That Built Me” or “Live Like You Were Dying,” don’t come along every day, but six albums in, Bentley should have something close to those in his canon. He enlists top writers, when he’s not penning tunes himself, and his production, while sometimes a little crowded, is solid, so it’s a mystery as to they these songs have eluded him.
Follow Melinda Newman on Twitter @HitFixMelinda