My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Single Review: Dierks Bentley – ‘Draw Me A Map’

A lot of artists have been going bluegrass lately, but most of them are singers past their commercial peaks with no realistic hopes of mainstream radio play, however good the music is. Dierks Bentley is rare in diverging from the demands of radio to take an artistically rewarding detour down the backroads of bluegrass, while still a major contender, and challenging country radio to play something a little different from its usual fare. The fascinating meld of bluegrass, country and other music on his Up On The Ridge album has just been rewarded with Dierks’ first CMA nominations for Album of the Year and Male Vocalist. (He won the Horizon award back in 2005, but had been ignored ever since.)

Despite the forceful beat and familiar lyrics which made the album’s title track and lead single, ‘Up On The Ridge’ appear to be its best bet on radio, it peaked disappointingly outside the top 20. He is following it up with perhaps the album’s best track, the entirely more subdued and graceful ‘Draw Me A Map’. Dierks wrote the song with his producer Jon Randall (aka Jon Randall Stewart), and they created an extremely fine record together. All too often these days country singles have well-written lyrics but poor production, or a great melody but bland lyrics; it’s a delight to hear a song where everything works together.

The acoustic production is restrained enough to let the beautifully constructed lyrics breathe. Like its predecessor, it is not pure bluegrass, with drums and cello in the mix as well as more familiar bluegrass instrumentation, including Ronnie McCoury’s mandolin, Scott Vestal’s banjo and Randy Kohrs’ dobro, all beautifully played but never overshadowing the song.

This is a very serious sounding record, with a melancholy sense of longing and a Celtic touch to the melody, especially the fiddle line in the instrumental section at the end of the song. The protagonist has lost his way in his relationship and is floundering and he’s wondering how to find safe harbor again. We don’t know exactly what went wrong or how he is at fault; the detail of the past isn’t important compared to the sense of desolation felt in the present, and the hope that the future may bring a way back home. He dares not even ask for forgiveness for this mysterious wrong, because he isn’t sure she cares enough to give it:

If I took for granted that I held your heart
I’d beg forgiveness, but I don’t know where to start

While it is addressed to, and in the presence of, the lover he is trying to regain, is she even listening? The sadness imbuing Dierks’ vocal makes the response to his plea unknown, unknowable, but somehow there doesn’t seem to be much hope here. The pensive mood is perfectly realized. Dierks’ voice is at its best on this single, with an interesting grainy quality underpinning the heartfelt emotion of his delivery, with tasteful harmonies from Alison Krauss delicately ornamenting the track.

Let’s hope that Dierks’ CMA nominations are translated into radio play for this beautiful song. It’s certainly one of my favorite singles of the year.

Grade: A

Listen to it here.

8 responses to “Single Review: Dierks Bentley – ‘Draw Me A Map’

  1. Ben Foster September 2, 2010 at 8:39 am

    I liked this song much better than “Up On the Ridge.” It has better lyrics, a more bluegrassy sound, and you can even hear Alison Krauss better. I hope radio plays it.

  2. Rick September 2, 2010 at 6:44 pm

    This song just doesn’t do much for me. Its competent and pleasant and highly listenable, I just don’t find it particularly engaging or memorable. I think “Bad Angel” is far more interesting and the chorus line really embeds itself in your brain whether you want it to or not, and Miranda’s vocal contribution is totally cool. Well, that’s my two bits worth.

  3. GeeGee September 3, 2010 at 10:54 pm

    I’ve tried really hard to like Dierks music, but I just can’t get into it and I can’t put my finger on exactly what it is I don’t like about it. It’s just there, nothing exciting or making me want to listen to a whole album. This song started out good, but then I quickly lost interest.

    • Razor X September 3, 2010 at 11:35 pm

      I used to feel that way about his music. All I can say is you might be pleasantly surprised if you do listen to one or two of his albums all the way through. There’s a lot more to him than what you hear from him on the radio.

  4. Ronna September 5, 2010 at 3:05 pm

    This is my favorite on the Ridge album! I think it is more mainstream radio worthy than the title cut and hope for a much higher chart placement. I LOVED your review of the single. Perfectly said! Thanks.

  5. Captain Video November 30, 2010 at 8:36 pm

    I hear Allison, it that her playing fiddle? missed her in the video. Great tune!!

  6. Ronna November 30, 2010 at 9:40 pm

    Actually it is Stuart Duncan on the fiddle and Alison Krauss is the Harmony Vocal.

  7. Pingback: Single Review: Dierks Bentley – ‘Am I The Only One?’ « My Kind Of Country

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