For some, perhaps that can be seen as a move of karma. After all, as far as critical acclaim is concerned, Black was Dierks Bentley's most panned album to date. The question of where Dierks went from that album era was completely up in the air. Thankfully, him and his team are at least taking the right steps to cultivate the image and sound for Dierks that we all know and love. The only question is, will his new album, The Mountain be that return to form that many are hoping for? Or is the marketing just pulling the wool over our eyes?
After hearing the leadoff single to his newest project, "Woman, Amen", it's hard to answer that question. One thing that is for certain though is that this song in particular is a throwback to earlier times, most notably the Riser era (which yes, only dates back to 2014). The song itself is just this huge, atmospheric ball of energy that makes me wonder what the concept of The Mountain is really going to entail.
With this new album, many people (myself included) are hoping for something akin to Up On The Ridge Vol. 2 complete with Bluegrass textures and plenty of fiddle, banjo, and mandolin. Now, "Woman, Amen" does not fit that template whatsoever, but with the atmospheric touches added to it, I can still see it fitting the concept somewhat.
The song begins with some nice acoustic textures and some huge drums before giving way to some electric guitar. For those who are familiar with the folk-country style of say, High Valley, the style will be a welcome fit. The chorus crescendos into the usual clear, anthemic-esque, booming sound that you would expect for the style. The violin that creeps up (even if it's only for a little while) during the bridge is a nice added touch, and as far as the sound is concerned, I would say that it does feel like something that would fit on a "mountain" themed record. Think about it, the huge, booming texture makes it feel like one is literally shouting from a mountain top, and the fact that it's more folk-pop inspired at least gives it somewhat of a more rural feel (only somewhat though). Like a mountain, there's a lot of wide open space for this song to breathe, and that can be appreciated. Dierks will never be known for his power as a vocalist, but he's able to sound convincing and carry the song until its end.
Where the song stumbles is the lyrical content. Now, considering that songs such as "Female", "Take Back Home Girl", and even a new song called "Bitches" are plaguing the airwaves (the last one isn't, but give it time), it's easy to cringe at a title like "Woman, Amen". Thankfully the song avoids trying to be an anthem or something sleazy and instead opts just as a simple love letter from Dierks to his wife. In terms of the execution, this will be song known more for its dynamics than any other element. The songwriting is thin and generic on paper, with two verses that only contain four lines each and a bridge that just lists off a random assortment of "things" his wife gives to him (faith, grace, hope, strength are some examples). There's really nothing specific that makes me think Dierks Bentley is really invested in his praise of his wife, and ultimately the generic content is what holds the song back.
Still, as someone who is a fan of the more folk-pop-country hybird that acts such as High Valley and Lanco have adopted, I probably enjoy this song more than I should. No, it's not the Bluegrass inspired track that I was hoping for, but for a Country single in 2018, I honestly wasn't expecting that, especially when Dierks' last single under-preformed. Still, I'd argue that the song fits what the album is going for, and if this is an album that rips a page out of the Marty Stuart handbook by being based around instrumental and production textures, then count me on board for this new album. Welcome back, Dierks. It's good to have you.
Listen: "Woman, Amen"
Author: Zackary Kephart