Nearly five years after the release of his last album, Dierks Bentley is back with his new project, Gravel & Gold, released on Friday, Feb. 24. The album not only marks his first full-length project since 2018's The Mountain, but it's his 10th studio album, and it's being released months before he celebrates the 20th anniversary of his first-ever radio single, "What Was I Thinkin.'" With all these milestones behind him and surely more to come, Gravel & Gold showcases Bentley's career in this current moment while honoring the places he's been.
Those 20 years of countless miles banked on a tour bus and 21 No. 1 songs in the U.S. and Canada all led Bentley here: to a place where he has established his name in the country music history books and can fully lean into his inspirations.
The importance of Bentley's 10th album wasn't lost on him, and it took three attempts to come out of the studio with a full project suitable for release. He worked with a group of producers including Ross Copperman, Jon Randall, F. Reid Shippen and Brett Beavers. Bentley, himself, also served as a producer. The product of his hard work is an album that melds his old-school country and bluegrass influences while offering something new. The project bridges the 20 years of his career with nods to the sounds and styles of his past, and it offers vulnerability and maturity with profound messages about life and love.
Below is a song-by-song guide of Dierks Bentley's Gravel & Gold, an album that may just find the Mountain-loving singer at a new peak in his career.
"Same Ol' Me"
Bentley launches into the album with "Same Ole Me," a song that establishes the project's vintage sound and introduces the person Bentley is at this point in his career. With strong guitar instrumentation with flecks of banjo and mandolin, Bentley describes that he's still the same guy he's always been. Although he seems to sing to a love interest in the song, the message could be one for his fans as well — that he's still the same old traditional country-loving artist, and he's not changing for anyone. Listen here.
"Sun Sets in Colorado"
The journey of Gravel & Gold continues with the second track, "Sun Sets in Colorado." The song tells the story of a man looking back on the important places in his life, but the two places that are closest to his heart are Tennessee and Colorado. Although Bentley didn't write the song, it's clearly relatable to his own life, as he and his family often shift between the two states. The final line in the chorus showcases how both states hold a special place to the singer: "My heart beats in Tennessee, but my sun sets in Colorado." Listen here.
"Heartbreak Drinking Tour"
Bentley dives head first into his traditional country influences with the barroom breakup tune, "Heartbreak Drinking Tour." Written by hitmakers Luke Dick, Ashley Gorley and Michael Hardy along with Bentley, the tune finds the veteran singer on a heartbreak-fueled road trip from town to town and bar to bar. The song features clever lyrics to describe the voyage ("I got lit in Little Rock"), and classic country-infused instrumentation sets the scene for some old-school, honky tonk heartbreak. Listen here.
Track four finds the road-torn Bentley longing for "Something Real." With a rock and roll energy and roving banjo in the background, he sings of his desire to soak in all the genuine and authentic moments life has to offer. While the song is mostly about finding "real" moments in life in general, it does feature subtle commentary on the state of country music.
"I can't really pour my heart out / On the FM radio / 'Cause the way I'm feeling won't fill up the Coliseum on the edge of Tupelo," he sings in the verse. Listen here.
If Bentley was looking for "Something Real" in track four, he seems to have found it in the tranquil fifth track, "Still." Against intoxicating acoustic guitar, Bentley sings about shouldering the "weight of the world" and needing to untangle his thoughts. The song evokes a sense of calm and contentment as he describes serene nature scenes with a "rollin' rocky river" and "mountain sunrise." The song's chorus almost sounds like a hymn as he characterizes the stillness he finds in these untouched places.
"Like the trees with no breeze, my heart is still / Where the world's the way God made it still." Listen here.
"Beer at my Funeral"
Bentley jumps back into his untamed country ways with "Beer at my Funeral." The song title speaks for itself: Bentley has plans for his funeral, and it better include something domestic, light and cold (to quote a tune from his sophomore album, Modern Day Drifter). Written by longtime collaborators Brett Beavers and Jim Beavers, this song features the rocking country sound and sense of humor present on Bentley's earlier albums. The premise is also undeniably clever and original. Listen here.
"Cowboy Boots" feat. Ashley McBryde
Bentley promised traditional country on Gravel & Gold, and "Cowboy Boots" with Ashley McBryde certainly fits the bill. This song serves as both an ode to cowboy boots and a warning about the cowboys (and cowgirls) who wear them.
"They got a reckless reputation that they always live up to / That's why they call 'em cowboy boots," Bentley sings in the chorus.
With classic country production featuring a longing pedal steel outro, this song more than delivers on Bentley's pure country promise. Listen here.
As the lead single and first representative of the album at radio, "Gold" sums up both the musical and physical journeys Bentley took to create Gravel & Gold. The song also serves as an encouraging message to listeners to keep pushing and find the positives in a seemingly negative situation. With free-spirited, acoustic-based instrumentation perfect for a windows down driving day, "Gold" leaves no questions about Bentley's commitment to making music influenced by his country and bluegrass roots. Listen here.
"Walking Each Other Home"
The overriding theme of Gravel & Gold seems to be one of a journey through the highs and lows of life, and "Walking Each Other Home" personifies this. Co-written by John Osborne, Luke Dick and Bentley, the song is about the things and people that walk us through the road of life. These include books, music, friends and past loves. And in the bittersweet final verse, Bentley extends this message to the loss of those we love the most in life ("Dads turn into dust"). The lyrics are undeniably touching and the song's nostalgic instrumentation with heavy pedal steel and acoustic guitar adds to the emotion of the track. Listen here.
Bentley lets that untamed ramblin' fever loose yet again in the feel-good "Roll On." With dobro (provided by Jerry Douglas) and mandolin (by Sam Bush), Bentley sings of hitting the road with a loved one and experiencing everything the world has to offer. Anyone with a dose of wanderlust will certainly relate to the song's free-and-easy lease on life. Bentley describes rolling on "Like a goodbye down the highway" in the tune because, after all, "Life ain't gonna find us if we keep on standin' still." Listen here.
"All the Right Places"
Bentley returns to a more rock-influenced rhythm on track 11, "All the Right Places." Although the song is upbeat, he sings from the perspective of a guy who's had his heart broken a few too many times and always in beautiful places. From the beach, to a boat, to a New Year's Eve party gone wrong, this man has felt enough heartbreak to last a lifetime. However, he takes comfort in the fact that he has at least visited some great spots. The song not only serves as a fun jam, but it features an entertaining brand of self-deprecating humor. Listen here.
"Ain't All Bad"
Song 12 on Gravel & Gold continues the theme of being able to see the positives in the midst of a bad situation. In "Ain't All Bad," Bentley again sings from the point of view of a newly heartbroken man, but he can always see the "silver lining" in a "Cuervo Gold shot glass." The song finds him looking on the bright side of a break up and listing all the positives about being single. These benefits include more money, more time for fishing and football and the opportunity to get shot down by a girl at a bar ("But at least I got to ask.") Listen here.
Bentley turns the sentimentality up to 10 on Gravel & Gold's 13th track, "Old Pickup." This song serves as the ultimate bittersweet ode to an ex-lover, and it's filled with emotional nostalgia. He sings from the perspective of a man transported back to the memories of driving in a pick up truck with a former love. These memories give him the desire to buy a truck of his own in hopes that he'll somehow get those days back. Listen here.
"High Note" feat. Billy Strings
Bentley began Gravel & Gold by establishing who he is, and in the final track, he's singing about how he wants to go out: on a high note. Bentley collaborates with Billy Strings on the high-powered bluegrass anthem about lighting up and letting go — with plenty of clever references to "Willie's best" throughout the tune. The song serves as an energetic end to the project, and the final note blends well into the first track for a repeat play of the album. Listen here.
READ MORE: Elle King's 'Come Get Your Wife': A Song-By-Song Guide to the Singer's Debut Country Record
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