Following the straightforward, addictive country of Riser, Dierks Bentley moves into a slightly different direction on his latest album Black. While the country style still goes strong, it’s a much more mainstream take on the genre, with the album’s modern concept of the different stages, emotions and reactions to love gives the album a unified vibe in both style and theme. It’s not always successful at what it attempts to do, but its base is undoubtedly solid.
The album occasionally visits a straightforward country sound. This is especially obvious when the layers upon layers of guitars in Roses and a Time Machine twang alongside each other, and the general attitude of the verses helps too; the theme of wanting to reverse time to fix a wrongdoing is fitting of the style as well. However, its modernised style is quickly made the focus of the album on the opening track, the album’s namesake Black, which features the familiar guitar style but surrounds it with plenty of reverb-covered guitars and beats that give it a sleek style that comes across as stylistically opposite.
Songs like Somewhere on a Beach and Freedom straddle the line between extremes though; while Somewhere on a Beach is a predictable country pop track, almost laughably mainstream in style, Freedom mixes similar elements and makes it more akin to Black, giving the album a few layers of style. This doesn’t hide the fact that the album is fairly cohesive, though; the spectrum of styles that it moves between is fairly limited, and very few moments stand out as different or entirely memorable, with the most unique track being Mardi Gras. The song’s slow, swaggering country style is paired with collaborator Trombone Shorty’s New Orleans-style horn performance, giving the song a sound fitting for its namesake and adding some interest that the album needed as it neared its closing moments.
Black obviously has a solid concept behind it that helps the album feel a little stronger in the long run, but overall it doesn’t do much to assert itself and its differences. Tracks like Mardi Gras and the title track add some moments that give the album some much needed definition, but largely don’t do enough by themselves to completely save it. After an album like Riser, one can’t help but feel somewhat put off by the mainstream Black regardless of the things it does right.