Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
Dierks Bentley seems intent on expanding his musical boundaries, but he may have overreached too much in eschewing where he came from.
That most evident by the dominating textured beats. Producer Ross Copperman and Bentley seem hell bent on injecting odd meters and sounds, sharp detours from past efforts. Unfortunately, the atmospheric beats muddy up the vocal delivery on "Freedom," a song that stretches far too long at almost four minutes. Bentley also channels U2 with its "uh-oh" backing chorus, chimey guitar and martial-like drumming.
Copperman, who is credited with "programming," and Bentley continue using the sounds on "Roses and a Time Machine," which builds quite nicely with a slightly funky beat, and later on the single "Different For Girls" with Elle King on backing vocals. The new sonics on the otherwise quiet sounding "Why Do I Feel" stand in contrast to the spare guitar and Dobro sounds underneath.
"Different for Girls" simplistically relates how guys and girls treat break up differently. The bottom line is that guys get drunk, hook up and try to forget with "a whiskey and coke," while "It's different for girls/nobody said it was fair/When love disappears, they can't pretend it was never there."
Apparently, the thinking changed when it came to "Mardi Gras" because here, the woman plays party girl. "She ain't looking for love/No she's just looking for a real good time/And you can't change her weather/She's a hurricane every time." Trombone Shorty helps out on his instrument of choice.
All is good, though, by the time Bentley gets to the anthemic singalong rocker "Light It Up" where "my soul needs an angel's touch," and the girl puts some faith in him.
Bentley goes commercial on the hit single "Somewhere on a Beach," a follow-up of sorts to "Drunk on a Plane." Definitely catchy, but generic and wreaks of bro country sentiments with lines like "Got a new girl, she got it going on/We drink all day, and party all night/I'm way too gone to have you on my mind/She got a body and she's naughty." Bentley is capable of better.
Like most all good country performers these days, Bentley then name checks George Jones on "All the Way to Me." But calling out Jones doesn't mean that Bentley went back to basics.
It's not until the quiet closing of "Can't Be Replaced" that Bentley returns to roots. With an acoustic guitar and Dobro underpinning the song, what can't be replaced is Bentley's beloved dog Jake (along with a few other memories). It's a good choice to end with a sentimental journey, but too bad that Bentley wasn't feeling the same way when it came to the vibe.