dierks bentley review gravel & gold review

Gravel & Gold review | Dierks Bentley makes long-awaited return

★★★★☆ Dierks Bentley is back doing what he does best: hitting that accessible spot between the mainstream and the traditional. Or, as he puts it, “it might be gravel but it feels like gold”. 

★★★★☆


Nashville may be known as a ten-year town, but if you’re lucky enough to have cracked it in that time, you might ask yourself what’s next. Ten number ones? Dierks Bentley had achieved that by 2012. How about ten albums? That’s the career milestone Bentley finds himself at on new record Gravel & Gold, which also happens to be his first album post-pandemic, his first since he left Nashville and put down his guitar for an extended period for the first time in decades, and the first that sees him step into the producers’ chair.

Sometimes sentimental, sometimes searching, never too serious, and often served up with a nice hefty self-aware dose of Big Dad Energy, the album declares its mission statement upfront in the opener Same Ole’ Me“time has a way of changing things/different dogs and different jeans/I got brand new strings but baby I’m the same ol’ me”.

He’s true to his word. Beer At My Funeral is characteristically silly but saved by the kick of its chorus: “they’d better have cold beer at my funeral/ if they don’t I ain’t gonna go”. Ain’t All Bad is a fun honky tonk stomper that gives an optimist’s take on the ending of a relationship: at least you’ve got some more money in your pocket now you’re not spending it on a love interest. Sunsets in Colorado is a heartfelt ode to Dierks’ second home, inviting listeners to reflect on the landscapes that back our lives, including a tone-setting romp on the mandolin and fiddle.

The production of Walkin’ Each Other Home might leave a slightly saccharine taste. Still, it does bring a fresh spin to the country classic of proclaiming a manifesto told through the lens of three trusted prophets (usually some combination of Willie, mama, Jesus and whiskey). For Dierks, it’s Jack Kerouac, prolific songwriter Shel Silverstein and a Martin D18 guitar.

A few songs fail to connect, if only because it’s unclear how seriously we’re supposed to take Dierks singing them. Heartbreak Drinking Tour and All The Right Places don’t have quite the same sting from someone who has been married since 2005, and which respectively play the alcohol listicle style songs that do well on radio and a future arena crowd who want to work their way through the aforementioned list whilst chanting a hook over and over again. Something Real, with its lament, that the subject can’t pour its heart out on the FM radio? All those number ones might beg to differ.

dierks bentley review gravel & gold review

Dierks Bentley performs before the NASCAR Cup Series 65th Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 19, 2023, in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Ending the album, literally, on a High Note might be some fun wordplay, but this excellent bluegrass track, which features Billy Strings on vocals and Charlie Worsham on guitar, deserved to be much higher up in the running order. It’s one of two duets on the album, both of which show Dierks’ canniness in picking buzz-worthy song mates, the other being Ashley McBryde, who joins him on the ballad Cowboy Boots.

The result is another solid album that’s a fresh take on what Dierks does best: hitting that accessible spot between the mainstream and the traditional. Or, as he puts it, “it might be gravel but it feels like gold”.


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