Dierks Bentley, "Riser" (Capitol Nashville)
Contemporary country singer Dierks Bentley has changed producers for "Riser," his seventh album, and the results play up a long-held U2 influence. The chiming guitars and slow-boiling melodies add a simmering passion to Bentley's distinctive vocal and writing style, while the lyrics and subtle instrumental touches tie it to country music.
Working with producer Ross Copperman, Bentley's ambitious reach comes charging back in such new gems as the spiritual "Here on Earth" and the personal statements of "I Hold On" and "Damn These Dreams."
The album's arrangements -- a refinement of a sound Bentley has drawn on since his 2003 debut -- mix atmospheric touches with steady rhythms that percolate and at times explode into fist-pumping anthems. The sound accentuates the strengths of Bentley's voice, which nicely articulates narrative story songs like "Bourbon in Kentucky" (with harmony vocals by Kacey Musgraves) and the tangled emotions of "Say You Do."
Bentley's often shown a sly sense of humor, and it surfaces on the entertaining "Drunk on a Plane," which manages to turn a poignant portrait of heartbreak into a party song.
"Riser" might not lift Bentley to the top-tier rank of label mates Luke Bryan and Eric Church, but the singer-songwriter continues to bring a much-needed creative heft to country music.