Since making the move from Phoenix, Arizona to Music City, Dierks Bentley has made waves within the country music space. He signed his first publishing deal in 2001 and released his self-titled debut album in 2003 after inking with Capitol Records/UMG Nashville, earning an immediate No. 1 hit. He has built on that success with eight more studio records and 21 No. 1s, three CMA Awards and 14 Grammy nominations as well as a loyal fanbase. Now, Bentley is sharing the gift of Gravel & Gold, his 10th studio album, with his fans and music lovers everywhere.
Released on Friday, Feb. 24, the 14-track record puts the Grand Ole Opry member’s range on full display, as he beautifully blends bluegrass with contemporary country. From songs about drinking to songs about taking it all in on a mountain top, his wholesome core and smooth vocals continue to scratch that itch for a constructive country sound.
Prior to this latest release, Bentley wrote and recorded two albums but he innately felt that they weren’t right. When it came to curating this collection, he found himself trusting the process and letting his heart, mind and muses speak for themselves. He served as a first-time producer on the project, and shared a little bit of the album’s development and what Gravel & Gold means to him with MusicRow.
“The biggest part of this process for me was not recording anything and just being off the road, and being in Colorado for the pandemic. I’ve heard people say it’s the space between the notes that makes a great guitar solo, that’s what builds the tension. So for me, the space between the albums is what really gave this album the life that it needed,” Bentley confesses.
“Being free to explore, live and make new memories, my brain would just come up with ideas. So when I came back to Nashville after living in [Colorado] for a year, I had a lot of ideas. This third time around, it was about taking all of the experiences from being off the road and taking the experiences from those first two times in the studio. Everything came together and [I] knew right away this was feeling like the right vibe for the album.”
Over the years, the superstar has learned that making music is about showing up and putting actions behind those ideas. He notes that trust is heavily involved as well, when handing the music over to bands and production teams. But at the end of the day, nothing happens unless you show up. The concept and title of Gravel & Gold was derived from Bentley’s “attitude for gratitude,” which he notes became more apparent to him after the pandemic and being away from Nashville.
“The idea that, ‘It might be gravel but it feels like gold’—that it’s all about your perspective—is something that I wouldn’t have gotten had I not left for a year.”
The first single from the album, “Gold,” epitomizes just that, reminding us that it’s all about our outlook on life and our approach to situations with its uplifting beat and purely southern instrumentation.
The album features collaborations with many creators, including “Cowboy Boots” with Ashley McBryde, which is an ode to the shoe Bentley has walked in throughout his career. The tune “High Note” features Bentley picking with bluegrass star Billy Strings alongside Jerry Douglas on dobro, Sam Bush on mandolin, Charlie Worsham on guitar and Bryan Sutton on guitar and banjo, humorously depicting lighting up before kicking the bucket.
“Walking Each Other Home” is a heartfelt song about human connection that Bentley wrote with Luke Dick that creates a lovely image eliciting the message that we are all in this together. Then there’s “Still,” the song Bentley deems one of his favorite and most personal tracks, which talks about peaceful reflection while atop a mountain where everything seems to be calm.
“Gravel & Gold is a step forward but it’s also a look back at everything I’ve done. It’s my 10th album and I wanted it to reflect the music that made me who I am, so there’s some bluegrass and traditional country as well as some commercial country. It’s about pushing the music forward with songs that have a new sound, but also putting an arm around the songs and styles that have made me who I am,” he states.
“If someone were to ask me ‘Who are you?’ I’d give them [this album].”
On Thursday, Feb. 23, the entertainer hosted An Evening with Dierks Bentley: The Road to Gravel & Gold at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s CMA Theater, showcasing music from the new project as well as a few of his older hits. Throughout the show, Bentley consistently took time to thank multiple contributors to his career—ranging from friends from his Broadway performing days and his family to co-writers and members of the UMG Nashville team. Multiple guests joined him on stage as his genuine demeanor drew in the crowd.
Bluegrass Hall of Fame and founding New Grass Revival member Sam Bush joined him for “Sunsets in Colorado,” which earned the night’s first standing ovation.
“You can’t change the world with one song, but it feels good to try,” Bentley noted as Dick joined him for “Walking Each Other Home.” During his set, he vulnerably restarted playing “Still” so has to execute it just right because, “the song means so much to [him].”
The War And Treaty also joined Bentley alongside Ronnie and Del McCoury, Jason Carter and Bush for an incredible, chill-inducing rendition of U2’s “Pride (In the Name of Love).” Then, joined by as many of the special guests that the stage could fit, he performed his classic fan-favorite “Free and Easy (Down the Road I Go).”
Additionally, the well-known hit will be featured alongside “Gold” tomorrow (Feb. 28) during Bentley’s appearance on Today at 8:00 a.m. local time, after he performs “Sun Sets in Colorado” on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon tonight (Feb. 27) at 10:35 p.m. CT.
Bentley will also celebrate Gravel & Gold with a special show at the Grand Ole Opry this Friday, March 3.
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