Dierks Bentley’s new album, Feel That Fire, arrives in stores today, so I recommend you go to Walmart and pick up a copy… of his debut album. Seriously though, folks, here’s my ranking of Dierks Bentley’s discography (minus hits package) to date. Feel free to compare notes – and lists – in the comments section.
1. Dierks Bentley (2003)
On his Capitol debut, Bentley offered a sturdy set of refreshingly traditional-minded contemporary country that seemed to owe more to Strait’s coolness than Garth’s theatrics. Not perfect by any means, but its consistency and uncluttered sound made it one of the better mainstream debuts of the early 2000s.
2. Don’t Leave Me In Love (2001)
Before Capitol came calling, Bentley independently released this album, which wore its low-fi charm on its sleeve and settled (albeit perhaps a little too comfortably) into a pretty cool bluegrass-meets-traditional groove. Bentley was still developing his interpretive skills, but was far enough along to acquit himself pretty nicely. A couple of these songs would reappear two years later on his major label debut.
3. Long Trip Alone (2006)
As Bentley’s star continued to rise, he muscled (and polished) up his sound in an apparent attempt to take his live shows to the next level. This was the first full realization of that effort, a cohesive set of thoroughly contemporary country with most traces of the singer’s early traditionalism thoroughly expunged.
4. Modern Day Drifter (2005)
Not so much terrible as it was plain unremarkable, an uncomfortable attempt to repeat the formula of the self-titled debut while pushing Bentley’s sound into more commercial territory (see the hunkified “Come a Little Closer” and “Cab of My Truck”). It had its bright spots, but felt pretty scattered as a whole.
5. Feel That Fire (2009)
Marketed as a major breakthrough album, Feel That Fire falls far short of expectations. Its greatest sin is that it fails to reveal anything new about the artist. Bentley is good, but not so good that he can afford to stop developing now. For him to do so – and indeed even think he should be rewarded with an Album of the Year nomination for doing so – shows a pretty disheartening artistic complacence on his part.