Album Review

Dierks Bentley - Gravel & Gold

Gravel & Gold is a fine addition to Bentley’s now extensive catalog, offering a pleasing example of an artist ageing with grace but never losing a sense of self.

Dierks Bentley - Gravel & Gold Album Cover
February 22, 2023 10:46 am GMT
Last Edited February 26, 2024 9:06 am GMT

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In 20 years, Dierks Bentley has built up a pretty respectable image. He’s aptly presented as the everyman, an approachable friend that’s become a staple fixture in the country music community. On Gravel & Gold, his 10th studio album, he continues this journey, no longer from within the confines of impressionable youth but from the wisdom of aged experience.

Balancing roles as both artist and first-time producer, he’s at his best when he’s not forcing out tales of barrooms past, instead sharing reflections on ageing, spirituality and love that feel significant at this stage of his life. ‘Heartbreak Drinking Tour’ is a misstep; a song which feels like it’s over-catering to current country radio trends and ends up feeling inauthentic.

In comparison, the hilarious ‘Beer At My Funeral’, where Bentley is found making demands and poking a bit of fun at his own mortality, finds the perfect balance between his trademark humour and a new-found desire to observe where he’s at in life.

Bentley has always seemed most at home when not taking himself too seriously and instead choosing to have a bit of fun, but does so now with an air of groundedness. ‘Same Ole Me’ is a bluesy romp about maintaining your identity at the midpoint stage of your life, leading succinctly into the folk-leaning ‘Sunsets in Colorado’ that laments soulful ties to the land.

Both serve as perfectly fine reintroductions to Bentley, while album standout ‘Cowboy Boots’ gives fresh life to an often-overused subject in country music. Between the strongly realized lyrics and the crystalline voice of fellow star Ashley McBryde, it’s a winning combination.

Perhaps most importantly, Bentley is the most self-assured and creatively confident he’s sounded in years. ‘Gold’ and ‘Walking Each Other Home’ finds him advising the masses on how to love and lead a more fully lived life, all while delivering heartfelt vocals that would be hard for any cynic to judge. The arena-ready ‘All the Right Places’, meanwhile, is quintessential Bentley; giving a heavy, gratifying nod to the energy of his first few albums that launched his career.

It’s album closer ‘High Note’ though that is most intriguing, Bentley mischievously detailing his medicinal approach to the end of times with some of Music City’s best pickers, including Billy Strings and Charlie Worsham. The energy and connection of this group practically begs for more music, along with a hopeful wish for a supergroup side project.

Gravel & Gold is a fine addition to Bentley’s now extensive catalog, offering a pleasing example of an artist ageing with grace but never losing a sense of self.

8/10.

Dierks Bentley's 2023 album, Gravel & Gold, is released February 24th via Capitol Records Nashville. You can purchase the record from one of Holler's selected partners below:

Dierks Bentley - Gravel & Gold Album Cover

Capitol Nashville | 2023

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Written by Soda Canter
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