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Dierks Bentley's 'The Mountain' is an Exercise in Clear-Eyed Positivity

"I've only got room for some love and some truth and little bit of peace of mind," Dierks Bentley sings on "Travelin' Light," a duet with singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile.

The song, like many tracks from his upcoming album The Mountain (out June 8), extols empathy, kindness and positivity. It's a welcome sentiment in these times and not unlike recent releases from Kacey Musgraves, Courtney Marie Andrews and Bentley's collaborator Carlile, whose stellar 2017 album By the Way I Forgive You is a soul-searching record that examines the pain and uncertainty of life and sends a message to be kinder to each other and kinder to yourself.

Bentley has created another dose of self-affirmation from an artist who knows something about setbacks and comebacks and the ups and downs of the music industry. After a less than successful tour in the early aughts, Bentley found himself returning his roots. The result was his 2010 bluegrass-influenced album Up on the Ridge, which signified a revival in Bentley's career and artistic output.

Now, at the height of his career, Bentley has once again returned to the source. For The Mountain, his ninth studio album, Bentley traveled to Telluride, Colo., teaming up with some of his favorite songwriters and musicians, including Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas and Tim O'Brien. Produced by Ross Copperman and Jon Randall, The Mountain feels like a work of freedom, inspired by the landscape of Colorado and the American west.

The album kicks off with the desert ramble "Burning Man," featuring Brothers Osborne.

"I'm a little bit holy water, but still a little bit burning man," Bentley sings on spirited track that speaks to the duality of the human condition.

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The title track is a testament to perseverance and resilience that seems to reflect Bentley's own trek to the top.

"Well I bet my soul on a six string gamble and I climb like hell through the brush and the bramble," he sings. "Even though I had my doubts, told myself don't look down and I turned that hill into a pile of gravel."

The album's first single, the gleeful and empowering "Woman, Amen," celebrates a real relationship with a woman in a manner that's unfortunately too rare on country radio.

Bentley's certainly no stranger to party songs, from the tongue in cheek "Drunk on a Plane" to the downright silly "Somewhere on a Beach," but The Mountain eschews carefree bangers in favor of more songs of purpose. (He told The Tennesseean the album was "free of ditties.") But it's as joyous as anything he's ever released.

The buoyant "Living" is an anthem for those times everything just feels right and exemplifies the importance of living with gratitude while "You Can't Bring Me Down" celebrates having a fighter's spirit in the face of adversity.

There's plenty of good old fashioned country heartbreak here too. "My Religion" is a slow-burning ballad about a man haunted by an old love, while "One Way" finds acceptance for what he's bound to lose.

Bentley gives a nod to his Arizona roots with "Son of the Sun," an ode to going off-grid in the wide open spaces of the west.

"I'm the son of the sun, a brother to the sky," Bentley sings. "Sometimes I've gotta lose myself so I don't lose my mind." 

The album standout is the aforementioned "Travelin' Light," a joyous marriage of country and bluegrass that made Up on the Ridge a favorite among fans and critics.

Record-closer "How I'm Going Out" is perhaps the album's most zen moment, with Bentley reckoning with the idea of one day being "another ghost on Music Row" and making peace with the fact that nothing—not fame, youth or life itself—lasts forever. But the beauty is in getting there. With The Mountain, Dierks Bentley provides one hell of a soundtrack for the journey.

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