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Album Review: “Feel That Fire” by Dierks Bentley

February 4, 2009

Feel That Fire cover

3.5 Stars

 

Three albums and a Greatest Hits project have helped put Bentley on the map as one of today’s most successful new male artists on the scene. Each of his projects have reached a peak of interest among both fans and critics that helped him rise above most of his competition to claim a spot just outside of major super-stardom. The big question has been whether his fourth album will keep to his promising record, or will he finally show some weakness to his power streak.

The answer is a little bit of both. The thing about Dierks is that his first three projects were pretty much focused around him playing it safe and being the good ol’ boy. He became the genre’s new pretty boy and sooner or later made a name for himself with heartwrenching ballads and upbeat crowd pleasers that never really went over the edge. In some ways he finally stretches that boundary with this project, but not enough to show any real progression from the Dierks he was when Long Trip Alone hit store shelves. Pretty much every song here offers something that was already covered in another focus on one of his other albums, so where does Bentley’s weakness lie….in his lack of ideas. This album is not so much repetitive within its own track list, but it’s downfall lies in it’s lack of separating qualities from anything else Dierks has put out.

That’s not to say it’s a bad project, far from it. This is one of Bentley’s most entertaining projects to date. Except for a few tracks, he pretty much sets aside his emotional state of mind that made up a good portion of his other albums and went for a more enjoyable and upbeat persona, an aspect of himself he actually used to advertise the project. The first single, the title track, may be a mediocre offering to radio for the hit maker in relation to what he had here, but it sets the tone for the wildfire he made here. If he’s not running from the cops in “Life On The Run” he’s warning other men about a housebreaker in “Little Heartwrencher”. The whole project carries a well established sense of energy and enjoyment, but at the same time it still fails to travel very far outside the safe zone, helping Dierks remains a solid artist, but his material also remains a little to solid too. Song’s like “Sideways” and “Here She Comes” are fun and exciting, but there’s nothing new to them at all. They’re the same bar patron and risky girl songs that his career runs off of.

Aside from his lack of unique offering here, Bentley has a pretty solid project on his hands. He includes a few ballads for spice and even a couple songs to try and pull at the inspired heartstrings of his listeners like never before. The romantic “I Wanna Make You Close Your Eyes” comes off as mature, effective and memorable, actually a ballad that stands out over the corny and overdone offerings of recent times. Bentley teams with Patty Griffin in a more relative tune called “Beautiful World” which, instead of offering solutions, takes a look at all the problems of the world and says it’s still beautiful even now. “Better Believer” is also quite deep as is Dierk’s very impressive writing collaboration with Rodney Crowell “Pray”. These two actually offer some needed originality to this project that makes the listener wonder what else Dierks could have offered.

All in all this is a solid release. What takes it down from a great release is its lack of unique material and detail. It even has a duet with Del McCoury band member Ronnie McCoury who plays the traditional part of “out there” guest on the project. Bentley knows what he’s doing, and he’s doing it really good. However, it’s time to step a little bit out of the safe zone and give the listeners something to really look forward to. This album, as acceptable as it is, fails to really completely satisfy for the long wait for new material that Dierks left when he decided to do a hits package. Every track on this album is certainly worthy of radio play and has the potential to become a hit, but very few even manage to attempt to cross the line of good ol’ boy that has been the safe zone for Bentley this entire time.

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