[19 November 2006]
Likeable but unexceptional, Dierks Bentley’s best moment is three years behind him and disappearing fast in the rear view mirror. He may have had hits since “What Was I Thinking?”, but nothing that’s caught the imagination in quite the same way, or worked as well on the radio as his first Number One. And Long Trip Alone is an album too far without a second bona fide country classic.
That’s not to say Bentley’s fourth CD is without merit. Far from it. Something of a concept album based around the themes of life on the road and the hell it can play with your love-life, it boasts plenty of songs—like “Every Mile a Memory” and “That Don’t Make It Easy Loving Me”—that could stand proudly against, say, some of Blake Shelton’s lesser numbers. But it simply doesn’t cut the mustard at the top level. There’s no edge. No innovation. No energy. And precious few genuine hooks.
But there are faux pas—I think that’s the plural, you just pronounce it differently, right? Faux pas aplenty.
First, there’s the packaging, and particular the font. You may think I’m being petty, but really, since when did country music wrap itself in Motorhead’s cast-offs? As deployed here, it’s hard to read, annoyingly so, and pretty much the sort of thing that only a 12-year-old with a metal fetish and a second-hand letraset kit would ever think was clever.
Then there’s “The Heaven I’m Headed To”. Okay, I get it. It’s a very minor slap in the face for the self-righteous moral madge, because there’s even a place for beggars, thieves and hoes in the heaven Dierks Bentley’s headed to. Providing they’ve found “amazing grace”, that is. But to me, there’s a distasteful arrogance in any song that starts out on the premise that the singer is going to heaven. I mean, how does he know? And has this double platinum-selling graduate of a prestigious New Jersey prep school ever read that bit in Matthew about camels, needles, and giving all your money to the poor? Perhaps they simply don’t cover those verses in Bible School for the Wealthy.
And finally, there’s “Band Of Brothers”—a thoroughly witless song that dares to portray the life of a country musician in terms of trenches, front-lines, and tours of duty. Can Dierks Bentley even spell “tactless”? Without going anywhere near the politics or morality of the occupation of Iraq, with almost 3000 American soldiers killed there to-date, at an average of something like 70 per month, it would be hard to think of a worse or more insulting idea for a contemporary country song. So what on earth was Dierks Bentley thinking?