Album Review: Dierks Bentley’s ‘The Mountain’

Dierks Bentley returns to his roots for his ninth studio album, The Mountain. The singer wrote and recorded the project in Telluride, Colorado, after being inspired during a visit to Telluride Bluegrass Festival. As a result, the acoustic instrumentation on select songs coupled with Bentley’s heartfelt songwriting brings to mind elements of his 2010 release Up On the Ridge. All the while, Bentley’s authenticity shines through.

The Mountain kicks off with the standout “Burning Man,” featuring Brothers Osborne, where Bentley sings of life’s struggles and triumphs. Penned by Luke Dick and Bobby Pinson, Bentley makes the song uniquely his with slowed vocals and striking musicianship that is sure to come alive in the concert setting.

The heartfelt “Living” also strikes a chord as Bentley sings of how “some days you’re just breathing, just trying to break even” while others “your heart is pounding out of your chest.” This introspection is heard throughout the majority of The Mountain, particularly on album closer “How I’m Going Out.” Bentley’s vulnerability is further showcased on the striking ballad “My Religion,” as he sings of how loving a woman isn’t his decision but his religion. Meanwhile, “Son of The Sun” has the singer reflecting on his upbringing in Arizona and his need to embrace the desert air and escape the daily grind of life through nature.

On “Nothing On But the Stars,” Bentley switches gears as he looks back at the end of a relationship with the hope of one more night together. It’s here that his seductive vocals shine with distinct yearning while delicate percussion accompaniment and soaring guitar features further evoke the song’s message.
Bentley switches gears on “Goodbye in Telluride” with unique production and a rhythmic singing style. A positive spin on a breakup, while enjoying the snowcapped mountains of Colorado he senses his girlfriend won’t be around for much longer. Captivated by the setting, he begs her to wait a few more days before ending things so he can remember his visit fondly. “If you gotta let me go I’m gonna be alright / Just don’t tell me goodbye here in Telluride,” he croons on the infectious song.

While Bentley’s brief relocation to Colorado to write and produce The Mountain had an obvious impact on many of the songs, so does his family. His wife’s influence is felt on the heartfelt single “Woman, Amen” and within the equally memorable love song, “Stranger To Myself.” On the latter, he sings of how before Cassidy came along he was a stranger to himself. “Who I was back then is like an old forgotten song / You showed me who I am / You handed me the keys / And I unlocked the door to a better part of me,” he sings on the chorus.

Dierks Bentley

Dierks Bentley; Cover art courtesy The Greenroom

One of the album’s highlights includes “Travelin’ Light,” featuring Brandi Carlile. The song’s acoustic instrumentation and Carlile’s captivating vocals pair well with Bentley’s. Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, and Tim O’Brien also provide musical assistance on the song.

While Bentley has shown is ability at pushing genre lines over the years, on The Mountain he successfully returns to his roots. Having spent time in Colorado writing and recording the album, Bentley proves a master at finding inspiration within his surroundings and, as a result, transports the listener with him. Bentley’s talent as a songwriter and distinct musical influences merge throughout The Mountain for a memorable release that will no doubt serve as a timeless addition to his catalog.