Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
Change was in store for Dierks Bentley when it came to recording his seventh album, "Riser." On the personal front, he lost his father and added to his family, clearly affecting the subject matter of his latest. On the musical front, he traded long-time producer Brett Beavers, producer of every disc except "Up on the Ridge," for Ross Copperman, who has enjoyed more success as a writer, including several previous tracks for Bentley.
Bentley embraces current trends in country music - not necessarily a good thing. At times, there's a bit of a Florida Georgia Line vibe to the music ("Back Porch"), making for catchy songs, but opting for various current day musical effects, some rap, lots of guitar and a glossy quality. The lead-off "Bourbon in Kentucky" spews out screaming guitars at one point along with a heavy-handed beat going on. The title track has a bit of an industrial feel.
But Bentley ensures he is won't be quite accused of selling out either. He goes soft with acoustics underpinning "Say You Do," but he also has an industrial sound going on in the background, a tip of the hat to current trends once again.
Bentley gives his take on drinking and sadness in a few songs. "Bourbon in Kentucky" (with Kacey Musgraves on vocals) works far far better than "Drunk on a Plane," which sounds close to something Lee Brice might sing. In the former, you feel the pain caused by the woman in Bentley's voice. In the latter, Bentley comes off as almost making you think the break-up was more of a chance to kick it up. After all, it's Mardis Gras time on the plane, he sings.
Bentley, fortunately, goes back to his roots with the slow, contemplative "Hurt Somebody" with Dobro and banjo part of musical potpourri. Bentley is pleading "Girl you're gonna hurt and God I hope it's me," you get the sense he really means it. Here, like elsewhere (the very fine and powerful "Here on Earth" and "Damn These Dreams"), the vocals are standout, and that has always been a trademark of Bentley.
For a guy who has been known to go his own way - 2010's bluegrass/left of center disc "Up on the Ridge" and outright bluegrass songs on other albums - Bentley shifts back towards what's au courant in the country marketplace today. As he makes clear on the title track ("I'm a fighter when darkness comes to town"), he intends to stick around no matter what it takes.