My Kind of Country

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

Album Review: Dierks Bentley – ‘Modern Day Drifter’

On the heels of the platinum-selling success of his self-titled debut album, Dierks Bentley’s second release for Capitol Records followed much of the same neotraditional-meets-modern-Nashville formula. Like its predecessor , the album was a major mainstream success, debuting at the top of the country albums chart, and producing 3 top 5 singles that include consecutive chart-toppers.

The lead single and a top 5 hit, ‘Lot of Leavin’ Left To Do’, moves forward at a great pace, and the modern country melody is catchy as all get-out.  The narrator sings here of his still-perpetual rambling ways.  ‘Domestic, Light and Cold’ sings the praises of American-brewed beer, and the lyrics are good enough to make Billy Currington bemoan that he missed out  on recording this one.

Of the two ballads that followed as singles, ‘Settle For a Slowdown’ is a stronger song to me, but ‘Come A Little Closer’ proved that a love song just sells better for the most part.  ‘Closer’ became the album’s biggest hit, spending multiple weeks at #1 and becoming a gold-selling single.  ‘Come A Little Closer’ is also an example of the album’s weaknesses in that Dierks appears to have no apparent direction, still searching for that sound that works, while ‘Settle For a Slowdown’ rests more on its own footing as it channels the darkness of Gary Allan with the grit of a modern-day outlaw feel, both in production and vocal performance.

The slow-moving ‘Down On Easy Street’ is a pleasant-enough story song about a successful man missing his former lover, but the fact that it keeps coming back to the hook about a man ‘on easy street’ makes it hard to feel anything for him, but Dierks gives it the old-school try; the problem is more with the lyrics than the delivery on this, and several other tracks.

Another highlight is Bentley’s take on Del McCroury’s ‘Good Man Like Me’, which features the Del McCroury band.  With the banjo and mandolin featured prominently here, it’s the token bluegrass track, and a real album standout. Likewise is the album closer, where mostly a mournful fiddle and single acoustic guitar accompany Dierks’ plaintive vocal as he tells the story that is finally revealed to be a man talking to his departed mother.

As I said in my review of Joe Nichols’ debut album, the best country music not only echoes the sounds of those who came before, but also forges ahead and leaves its own imprint. When Modern Day Drifter was released, Dierks was still discovering what kind of legacy he wanted to leave behind, and the album suffers some because of it – that’s certainly not to say there aren’t some first-class songs here – but it does leave the listener with little impression of Dierks Bentley, the individual, outside the shadow of his influences. Fortunately, time would prove Bentley to be a musical force in his own right, and Drifter was just another step on the way to Bentley maturing into the resonant genre-bending recording artist he is today.

Grade: B-

Modern Day Drifter is still widely available at amazon.

3 responses to “Album Review: Dierks Bentley – ‘Modern Day Drifter’

  1. Leeann September 13, 2010 at 7:11 am

    I like this album quite a bit in general, but I can see your point when I actually break the album down. My favorites are “Settle for a Slowdown”, “Lotta Leavin’ Left to Do”, “So So Long”, “Good Man Like Me”, “Gonna Get There Someday” and “Good Things Happen”, which features Alison Krauss. I even like “Come A Little Closer”, but not because I should, since evrything about it goes against what I’d typically accept in a song. A lot of people like his next album most, but that’s where my enjoyment for Bentley wavers a bit until it completely drops off for an entire album with Feel that Fire and is reenrgized by his current album.

  2. Rick September 13, 2010 at 11:33 am

    I purchased a used copy of the “Deluxe” version of this album just for the “bonus” humor track “She Won’t Choose Me” which I consider a great country song and one of Dierks’ best ever. I listened through the rest of the CD and it was okay with the Del McCoury song being my favorite.

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