When you reach the 20th year of your career in country music, it’d be easy to just go through the motions but fortunately for us, those who listen to the albums, well, Dierks Bentley didn’t do that. Instead, he brings out his influences on a cohesive collection of music, something he clearly aimed for as he recorded two records he shelved in favor of this one.
Gravel & Gold is the 10th album in his career in it features 14 tracks like opener “Same Ol’ Me,” a mission statement if there ever was one. “Heartbreak Drinking Tour” has both lyrics and a title that suggest classic country rocker but what you get instead is a melancholic, vibe-y slice of introspection. “Still” is a lovely piece of songwriting while “Beer At My Funeral” is humorous and likely a future radio single. “Cowboy Boots” features Grammy winner Ashley McBryde in a traditional country story song that’s an ode to everything that makes classic country footwear so great.
The hit lead single “Gold” is a jingle jangl-y slice of road-tripping storytelling. Ready to be a fan favorite sing-a-long at future concerts, the song feels like a modern ode to a similar kind of song: Lee Roy Parnell’s “On The Road.” “Walking Each Other Home, a song Dierks co-wrote with John Osborne and Like Dick, is a great piece of country storytelling with each lyrical fragment leading into the next one where influences of literature, instruments, love and friendship all shape us into who we are on our journey of life. The album closes up with Grammy winner Billy Strings, the current icon of bluegrass and acoustic music, joining an ace band of musicians (Jerry Douglas, Sam Bush, Charlie Worsham, Byron Sutton) on “High Note.” It’s a rocking piece of New Grass.
The fourteen tracks featured on Gravel & Gold showcase an artist at the top of his game. There’s a knowing maturity in the majority of these songs and a willingness to let the songs lead the way instead of searching for radio or streaming jams. In the end, Dierks continues to make records that are worthy of any and all attention they receive.