There's little question that Dierks Bentley has good taste, as well as a burning desire to be part of the tradition of rough, rugged, and sensitive hard country singers. In particular, he styles himself after Merle and Waylon, two influences that were apparent on his eponymous 2003 debut but come to the forefront on his 2005 follow-up, Modern Day Drifter. Even the title of the record signals Bentley's intention to be a ramblin' man for the 2000s, and the music consciously echoes not just the past, but ramblin' man classics -- the first single, "Lot of Leavin' Left to Do," is styled after Waylon's "This Time" and "Good Man Like Me" deliberately mimics Hank Snow's "I'm Movin' On." This isn't a drag on the record -- if anything slows it down, it's the occasional too-tasteful ballad, as well as such cloying, product placement-filled stabs at contemporary country as "Cab of My Truck" -- because Bentley has a nice, strong country croon and delivers this straight-ahead neo-traditionalist sound pleasantly and earnestly. He doesn't have much flair, though, as either a singer or writer. Instead of being a true ramblin' man and forging his own direction, he follows the path that Merle and Waylon created, never stamping it with much of his own personality. This makes for some good music, of course, but it's a bit of a mixed blessing that Bentley is at his best when he's following the blueprint of his heroes to a T. Next time around, maybe he can draw inspiration from the spirit of his idols and put his own unmistakable personal stamp on his music instead of just crafting his record to sound like something they might have recorded.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
feat: The Del McCoury Band