Dierks Bentley

Riser

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For a decade, every single Dierks Bentley release placed at least in Billboard's Country Top 20, usually making it to the Top Ten. That streak came to an end in 2013, when "Bourbon in Kentucky" -- the first single from his in-the-works seventh album, Riser, and a duet with 2013's hot star Kacey Musgraves to boot -- stiffed, going no further than 40 on the country charts. Such a thing doesn't happen to a big country star, so action needed to be taken: Bentley revised Riser, adding some levity to an album that nevertheless remains highly contemplative. As Bentley notes in his brief liner notes for the album, he made Riser during a period when his father died and his first son was born, so the fact so much of the album is reflective is little surprise, but Riser remains subdued even as Dierks loosens up: "Drunk on a Plane" isn't raucous; it's a diligent march that suits its tale of post-breakup revelry. Apart from "Sounds of Summer" and "Back Porch," two not-bad attempts to reckon with bro-country, this is all mature and measured stadium-sized modern country, with the guitars not twanging but echoing like the Edge. Riser isn't an outsider's manifesto, it's the work of a guy taking stock as he's facing middle age, reconciling his dreams with his reality, finding strength in his family and the music he loves. With all these big issues, it's no wonder that Riser doesn't quite feel brimming with lighthearted singles, but it's a sturdy, often absorbing record from a singer who is determined to be in it for the long haul.

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