Dierks Bentley ‘Bourbon In Kentucky’ – Single Review


It’d be a bit of an understatement to say ‘Bourbon In
Kentucky’ was highly-anticipated. Ever since Dierks announced his new project
‘Riser’ via an explanatory
promotional video
, due in the Fall, there has been a huge buzz surrounding
the record and the single that would lead this self-professed intensely
personal album. I am not someone who is incredibly familiar with Dierks’ music
(save a few key tracks), so my review of it is largely untouched by comparisons
to previous material, and his star power.

‘Bourbon In Kentucky’ still holds trademarks familiar to
Dierks fans in the strong rock influence throughout, and the chorus in
particular is not too far removed from some of his slower, more meaningful
material. However, there is certainly a movement away from the center of
mainstream country. It feels a little rougher, a little less polished overall,
and this matches the rawness of the emotion conveyed both in Dierks’ punchy,
throaty vocals, and in the lyrics which tell such a vivid story. At the basis
of it, it’s another ‘drinking can’t kill my pain’ song (written by Ryan Tyndell, Hillary Lindsey and Gordie Sampson), with more kick in the
lyrics, and more imagination than most. Dierks makes this song, not least
because of the emotion he puts in, but also due to the claim
of it being a tribute to his father
(who passed away during the recording
of the album); what starts off as a simple lover’s heartbreak song (and is
evident if you read some of the lyrics) suddenly becomes more important in our
minds because it’s been contextualized as about the pain of losing a parent.
The same thing happened with Miranda Lambert’s ‘Over You’, when it was revealed
she wrote it with husband Blake Shelton about the loss of his brother. What
began as a sad but fairly unremarkable breakup song, soon turned into CMA Song
of the Year.

I’m not saying that ‘Bourbon In Kentucky’ is unremarkable,
or a fair comparison to ‘Over You’. I am saying that our judgement and
viewpoint of the song has been manipulated somewhat before we’ve even heard it;
I know I was waiting to respect it because of the subject matter. But that
doesn’t detract from it simply being a good song. In fact, the slow,
unassuming, stripped-back verses build suspense fantastically, and shirks
predictability in favor of the listener’s pleasantly surprised smile. It holds
an impressive ‘epic’ atmosphere that it utilized elsewhere in Dierks’ music but
more clearly here, and Kacey Musgraves’ featured harmony vocals are a really
nice touch. I was interested to see how high up they were in the mix, and not
lost like guest appearances often are, in addition to not just featuring on the
chorus. Instead of being treated as guest novelty, Kacey’s vocals are both
subsumed into the overall texture of the song (as if another key instrument),
and identifiable as hers without taking the spotlight away from Dierks.

‘Bourbon In Kentucky’ is perhaps not as radical as fans
would have you think. It doesn’t experiment as such, but has an interesting
structure, great production, and isn’t anywhere near as predictable or boring
as most of the songs on country radio. It is also emotional, dramatic and most
of all poses the question of an album that isn’t as concerned with commercial

But as a song standing by itself? It reminds us that
regardless of sound, country music should be about honesty, and real emotion,
and stands high and mighty above an array of forgettable, shallow summer party
songs that no-one will remember in a year’s time. I think they’ll remember

You can listen to ‘Bourbon In Kentucky’ on Dierks Bentley’s website.

Posted by Vickye.
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