BOTTOM LINE An eclectic, likable tour of country styles.
Dierks Bentley moves so effortlessly between radio-friendly country, bluegrass and rock on his new album, “The Mountain” (Capitol Nashville), that his skill becomes impressive and his serenity becomes contagious.
His ninth studio album is built around an idea rather than a single country style. “The Mountain” is meant to be inspirational, a celebration of persistence and keeping calm. “It was only a mountain, nothing but a big old rock,” Bentley sings in the title track that sounds like it is built from Tom Petty guitar riffs and marathoners’ mantras. “Only a mountain, it ain’t hard if you don’t stop.”
On the gorgeous “Travelin’ Light,” a sprightly bluegrass duet with Brandi Carlile, Bentley advocates for positive change. “I used to carry my past like a duffel bag,” he sings. “It’s been hurting my head and breaking my back . . . I’m tired of livin’ unforgiven, so I’m travelin’ light.”
Sure, there are critics who would probably prefer an album filled with that kind of roots music, but why would Bentley want to slow the momentum of his arena-filling career? Especially when he offers country anthems as catchy as “Woman, Amen,” which somehow combines ‘80s rock simplicity and a timely celebration of the power of women, or the hard-charging “Burning Man,” which features the Brothers Osborne.
For his part, Bentley seems unflappable as he tackles a variety of styles and topics, from the seductive “Nothing on But the Stars” to the good-natured breakup in “Goodbye in Telluride.” On “You Can’t Bring Me Down,” he calmly declares, “You can try to wrap your words like rocks around my ankles and push me off a bridge and hope that I might drown.” He saves his fire for lines like “You don’t get this far without knowing how to get up off the ground.”
Of course, with a collection as likable as “The Mountain,” Bentley won’t have to worry about getting knocked down any time soon.