DIARY - 26 FEBRUARY 2012 - DIERKS BENTLEY CD REVIEW
HOME - WHERE THE BULLETS FLY
on a plane bound west/ I see her stretching out below/ land blessed motherland,
the place where I was born/ scars, yes, she's got her scars." - Home
- Dierks Bentley-Dan Wilson-Brett Beavers.
Bentley didn't have to look far for inspiration to write the title
track of his seventh album Home.
It was the mass murder of six people including Arizona District Court
chief judge John Roll and near fatal shooting of U.S. Congresswoman
A crazed gunman shot 18 people on January 8, 2011, in a supermarket
car park at Casas Adobes near Tucson in Bentley's home-state Arizona.
Jared Lee Loughner allegedly shot Congresswoman Giffords in the head
at close range as she chaired a public meeting near a Safeway store.
Home has since been selected as official song of Arizona's
Centennial Commission and adopted by President Barack Obama on his
play list in the healing process.
Giffords, who recently retired from congress, underwent rehab in Ashville,
North Carolina - same city Bentley recorded his first version of the album
including #1 hit single Am I The Only One?
Jon Randall Stewart produced Bentley's bluegrass-Americana album Up
On The Ridge and helmed the sessions that created 15 songs.
But, with the exception of the first hit, those sessions were shelved
and Bentley cut the rest of the album with producers Brett Beavers and
Luke Wooten at two studios in Nashville.
Dierks sourced some songs from real life events that moved him.
"Home is one of those songs," Bentley revealed on the
eve of his second Australian tour in March.
"I walked in to write that song with a guy I've never met before
in my life, Dan Wilson, and Brett Beavers, who I write a lot of songs
with. We got together that day, and I had nothing in my back pocket. No
ideas. I used up all of my ideas over the course of the year. I just really
didn't have anything left, and no one had anything. We started playing
around a little bit, drinking some coffee, and my wife called and told
me that her battery died, which happens all the time in her car. I keep
the jumper cables, like, in the front seat, so I cruised over to where
she was, jumped her car, came back over and these guys had started a little
melody for the chorus. It sounded great. It was really simple, but it
was really beautiful. Dan said something about America, and Brett had
mumbled something about home and I think I said, "The place we all
IN SACRED GROUND
got to call it brave, to chase that dream across the sea/ names, then
they signed their names, for something they believed/ red, how the blood
ran red, then we laid our dead in sacred ground." - Home - Dierks
Bentley-Dan Wilson-Brett Beavers.
So the song,
inspired by the mass murders, grew legs as its message was broadened.
But not enough for former Drive-By Truckers member Jason Isbell who accused
Bentley of plagiarism, citing similarities between Home and his
own In a Razor Town.
"We came up with this little idea about writing a song about our
country, but the song was really hard to write because you can overdo
it, make it a little jingoistic or almost like propaganda," Bentley
"I wanted it to be something that was really for everybody to find
something they could relate to. A lot of people are going through a hard
time with the recession. A lot of our military families are going through
tough times with their husbands being gone for long tours of duty. And,
in general, for anyone going through a hard time, I wanted them to latch
on to this song and realize we've been through some really tough times
and to be honest about the tough times we've had as a country and to showcase
the highlights and give them hope that there are better days ahead. I
think we were able to achieve that with that song. It's a pretty special
song for me."
But the singer didn't want to be perceived as jingoistic as fellow stars
Toby Keith, Hank Williams Jr and Charlie Daniels.
"Sure. I mean, the last thing I want to do is be involved in politics,"
"I mean, I'm an American, and I'm an independent. And if I want to
get involved in choosing sides, I usually pick hockey or football. I don't
think my fans want to hear anything about that from me. But as far as
being an American and loving this country and getting a chance to travel
across it every day and meeting people on the road and folks in the military,
I love this country on so many different levels. I think singing about
that and finding things that unite us, as opposed to things that divide
us, is safe territory to go into. It's something I feel like is a little
bit of an obligation at some point to sing about after all that I've been
given from our fans and from this great country. There's 300 million people
living in this country. There's just two sides to be on? Really! When
it comes to sports teams, maybe. But something as important as our country
and everything this country stands for, to have two sides is really. I'm
just not gonna fall for that."
"Well, it was Friday in the pm and just like every weekend/ I was
ready to throw down/ yeah get a little tore up so I called my bros to
meet me out on the town." - Am I The Only One - Dierks Bentley-Jon
Randall Stewart-Jim Beavers.
at #1 on Billboard charts - Bentley's fourth #1 album after Modern
Day Drifter, Long Trip Alone and Feel That Fire.
researched his album he wrote 70 songs in a 12 months burst.
But when the singer hit the second studio he culled it to six of his
own tunes and six by outside writers.
"I wrote too many songs," Bentley, 36, confessed as he prepares
to tour here with Lee Kernaghan.
"I've had 16 songs in a row on country radio I've written or
co-written I wrote 70. I wrote a lot. There's 64 that are never going
to see the light of day. That's 64 days that I can't get back."
About a year
ago, Dierks and a group of musicians headed to Asheville, North Carolina
to record the album - follow up to acclaimed bluegrass-Americana disc
Up On The Ridge.
He set up a live web stream so fans could watch the recording process
and cut 15 tracks then hit the road, thinking his next album was done.
Dierks started incorporating some of the new tracks into his set list.
He soon realised they weren't what he was looking for and went to label
president-CEO Mike Dungan to ask for more time to work on the record.
"I was like, 'Sorry. Can we write that off as pre-production? I'll
pay for it,'" he said.
"I just wanted to make an album that really defined who I am as a
country singer. I think the great country songs mixed with some of that
bluegrass instrumentation and surrounding all that with a little bit of
a rock vibe and energy is kind of music I make. Hopefully, with this record,
I was really able to kind of capture all that. I also listened to more
records from Music Row than I've ever listened to, just trying to find
great outside songs. I really want the Nashville songwriting community
as involved with this record as possible. I kind of did that on the last
record, Up On The Ridge, and I really found out how much I enjoyed listening
to great songs - whether they're new songs or old songs discovering songs
and seeing how they work into my album and fit into the whole piece. For
this record I cut six songs I didn't write which is odd because I've written
more for this record than I've ever written for anything else. But I really
wanted to find a way to make those songs work with my material and come
up with the best overall album. I found some killer outside cuts. I think
digging in and listening to what's out there on Music Row was really fun.
Hearing what the new sounds are and what people are writing about was
fresh for me. I tell you, it's been fun listening to country radio because
I'm hearing all these songs where I've I heard the demos, and now I'm
hearing the records that other people have cut. All of my friends and
all the people I respect the most are songwriters in this town and musicians.
Just to hear what they're working on and incorporate some of their songs
into this album. I can give some guys their first cut. I've got a couple
of guys on this record whose very first cut, ever, is on one of my records.
That's a huge honour for me."
IT ON BACK
main street closing, miles of for sale signs/ and them fields aren't growing
fast enough to get us by/ I feel the sweet release of a Friday night/
for a couple of hours we can run this town until it runs dry." -
Tip It On Back - Tully Kennedy-Ross Copperman-Jon Nite.
14 of 15 songs he originally cut for the album, keeping only Am I The
Only One - Home's lead single and a #1 hit in September.
It starts with a prominent banjo track - loud electric guitars take over
by the time it ends.
He also features cameos from bluegrass aces Sam Bush and Tim O'Brien on
Heart of a Lonely Girl.
It's a freewheeling guitar-driven disc with electric and acoustic from
J.T. Corenflos and Bryan Sutton.
Little Big Town's Karen Fairchild adds delicious dynamics to the bluesy
When You Gonna Come Around, penned by Jamie Hartford - son of the
late John - and Gary Nicholson.
Bentley invigorates Tip It On Back with a fierce desire for freedom
from troubles when faced with tough struggles.
Ringing guitars and memorable mandolin lay set mood for escapism from
the financially challenged current era.
It's a different reason for bar hopping and drinking than Am I The
On hook heavy In My Head distorted guitars roll while Dierks shows
off his ability to develop engaging melodies over an entire song.
Flowing through verse and chorus, melodies build to a powerful refrain
complete with rhymes inside rhymes.
Peers diverse as expatriate Australasian superstar Keith Urban and Mary
Chapin Carpenter have woven the shirt metaphor for a former lover into
So let's check out Bentley's writers Jason Sellers - first husband of
Lee Ann Womack - Paul Jenkins and Marv Green.
"You're still in that t-shirt on my bed/ you're every song that's
on, you're gone, but you're in my arms in my head."
feel my heart beat now, beating like a popgun, pow/ gone crazy, knocked
out by the hottest thing this side of town." - Gonna Die Young
- Jason Delkou-Bruce Wallace-Eric Paslay.
Die Young - an ode to a wild young thang - even flirts with a slight
hip-hop rhythm to the lyrics.
The feminine object of affection keeps the song's character on the run
in a fast breaking romance.
But 5-1-5-0 - penned by Bentley and Jim and Brett Beavers - and
Heart of a Lonely Girl both sound though they could have been recorded
during the Up On The Ridge sessions.
The quick 5-1-5-0, punctuated by sharp acoustic riffs and tight
banjo, exude humour and entertaining twists.
"5-1-5-0, just this side of loco/ I'm goin' crazy /think I
love you, baby."
The Woods is a tasteful play on dirt road/pickup truck songs with
its theme of an idyllic rural scene.
Dierks advises a friend about to get engaged about paternal perils in
Diamonds Make Babies.
Expat Adelaide guitarist Jedd Hughes guests on the sensual Breathe
You In - a Bentley co-write with Marty Dodson and Ryan Tyndell.
Finale Thinking of You is an evocative acoustic tune - just over
seven minutes long.
After an extended instrumental break, it fades out after about five and
a half minutes and fades back in several seconds later with a verse sung
by a young child.
Dierks' three-year old daughter Evie guests on the chorus, creating a
on lay with me, no better place to be/ our little secret safe in the trees/
cause out here baby it's understood/ what happens in the woods/ stays
in the woods." - The Woods - Dierks Bentley-Jaren Johnstone-Jon
who arrived in Nashville at 19 and frequented bluegrass bars, is
keen to give writing exposure to young protégées.
"I was so green," Bentley recalled.
"But I still moved here anyway, because I was so drawn to this
town and country music.
So I really moved here in a search for it, and I thought I'd find
it, and the second I got here I kind of found something different
was going on. I discovered Music Row first, in a way, through working
with the CMA and working jobs on Music Row. I kind of found the
business side of it first and saw a little bit of the package before
actually seeing how it was made. It just wasn't what I was looking
for, and it didn't look like it was as genuine as what I was hoping
a friend invited him to check out crack bluegrass band The Sidemen
at The Station Inn - he went, expecting an older crowd.
< John Randall
remember, 19 years old, fake ID, looking to the stage and seeing a bunch
of kids up there playing music, killing it," says Bentley.
"And I was like, 'OK, here it is. This is what I was looking for.'
I'll alone or in a crowd/ in a quiet place or where music's loud/ if I'm
on the road or in the other room/ that's how you know I'm thinking of
you." - Thinking Of You - Jim Beavers-Dierks Bentley.
into the acoustic roots scene so deep he became a pickin' party regular
and followed The Del McCoury Band to a festival across the country - before
signing with Capitol a decade ago.
"Those first couple years touring with Cross Canadian Ragweed and
Kenny Chesney and George Strait are just a blur of great times, great
memories," Bentley recalled.
"One year, we did 41 shows in a row - no off day at all. We were
bound and determined to play more than anybody else and tour really hard.
We still work really hard out there on the road and really love what we
do. You'd think it would get old, but it just doesn't.
Even when Bentley stepped into crossover territory on Feel That Fire,
he kept up his habit of including bluegrass - because he loves the genre
and believes his listeners deserve the chance to hear it.
He enlisted Patty Griffin, instead of a mainstream diva, for a duet on
Bentley duetted with prolific Grammy winner Alison Krauss on Good Things
Happen on his 2005 disc, Modern Day Drifter.
Ronnie McCoury song Last Call is also the Feel That Fire finale.
Dierks Bentley also scored goals early in his career - a duet with George
Jones on Murder On Music Row and Every Mile A Memory in
acclaimed TV series The Wire.
He lured the Del McCoury Band to play on his 2000 debut album Don't
Leave Me In Love, cut for $8,000, on Danglin' Rope Records.
The McCoury family have since played on all Bentley albums.
Then came Up on the Ridge, a full-blown acoustic departure powered
by pickers like Del's band and The Punch Brothers.
seven days I've been out on the road/ I'm a nervous wreck, I gotta get
back home/ there's a young bride waiting for me all alone." - Heart
Of A Lonely Girl - Charlie Worsham-Travis Howard.
on why he chose songs by outside writers - some of them relatively unknown.
"I have so many friends in the songwriting community and so many
musicians in this town that I respect, that I wanted to record as many
outside songs as possible and hopefully have one of those songs be a single
for somebody else," Bentley explained.
"To have six songs on this record that were written by other writers
is a source of pride for me. I'm excited for them."
Although a tune has been written by someone the multi-platinum-selling
singer respects doesn't mean he'll record it.
"You look for something that connects and something that fills a
niche on the record that hasn't been filled yet," he added.
"That's one of the exciting things, is what's going on in Nashville.
What's the rhythm of the writing community? You hear a lot of the production
ideas. You hear a lot of popular song ideas, what people are trying to
write. I was listening to country radio recently and thinking, 'that sounds
just like the demo I heard.' I feel like I had the inside scoop because
I had been listening to so many songs. It forces you to look at your song
and another song that might be like your song and go, 'You know what,
that's a better song.'"
CLICK HERE for a previous
interview with Dierks in the Diary on April 26, 2009.
CLICK HERE for an
earlier interview with Dierks - September 19, 2005.
/ back to diary