Me: Wow, Brothers Osborne did a nice job discussing an overdone topic.
Dierks Bentley: Oh really? Hold my beer.
Bentley’s last album Black was a perfectly fine disc, but despite containing two No. 1 hits and a No. 2, it seemed to lack that special something that made the disc truly memorable, and so it was forgotten even among my paltry “Top 3 Albums of 2016” list (come on Dierks, I only bought 4 albums that year!). With his experiment with a more-contemporary sound out of the way, Bentley made his way to Colorado to find inspiration for his next project The Mountain. While he claims the project is a fusion of Black and his bluegrass disc Up On The Ridge, the first single “Woman, Amen” has more of a Riser flair to it, and feels like a welcome return to form after Black.
Take the production from Bentley’s 2013 hit “I Hold On,” sand the rough edges off the guitars, and throw out the minor chords, and you’ve pretty much got the sound of “Woman, Amen.” This mimicry, however, is not a bad thing: The driving beat of the drums gives the song a ton of energy, the “whoa-oh” background choruses add a spacious feel to the atmosphere, and the brighter guitar tones fit the reverent, celebratory nature of the song well. There really isn’t much else to say here: Bentley has mastered the art of the uptempo, energetic country tracks, and this one is no exception.
Vocally, while I wouldn’t call this Bentley’s greatest performance (his voice sounds a bit rawer and rougher than on his previous material, and his flow feels a little awkward on the verses), it’s still an enjoyable listen, as he remains a master salesman who comes across as earnest and believable as the narrator. Part of this is because of his branding: Bentley is one of the few left in the genre who can credibly claim to be an “outlaw” (even after the ultra-slick Black), and paying tribute to the woman who rescued him and made him walk the straight and narrow through her undying affection is a classic outlaw trope (Waylon Jennings being the gold standard). “Woman, Amen” is the perfect song for a mid/late-career veteran with Bentley’s background, and he delivers enough charisma and personality to make the tune resonate with the listener.
Before I actually heard the song’s lyrics, I thought it would be a statement about the treatment of women in the vein of Keith Urban’s “Female” or Tim & Faith’s “Speak To A Girl.” In reality, the song is closer to Jerrod Niemann’s “God Made A Woman” or Russell Dickerson’s “Yours,” as the narrator proclaims amazement at all the things his partner gives him that he doesn’t feel he deserves, and feels that he should thanking God every night for bringing this woman into his life. However, while the writing is wholly unoriginal (the “cracks in my shattered heart” line was the only unique piece of the song) and it’s not really intended as a female enpowerment anthem, I actually find it to be more powerful than “”Female” or “Speak To A Girl” because it feels a lot more personal, as if it’s calling for each and every one of us to give a little more credit and respect to the women in our lives. Unlike Urban’s and Tim/Faith’s effort, nothing feels forced or awkward here: It’s a simple, straightforward statement that it expertly delivered by a capable artist and producer.
Overall, “Woman, Amen” is a darn good track from a darn good artist, and one that resonates with the listener long after it’s over. Both the production and the topic fall squarely within Dierks Bentley’s wheelhouse, and he delivers a solid, believable performance to drive the message home. If the rest of The Mountain meets this standard, then Bentley won’t be the only one shouting “Amen!”
Rating: 8/10. It’s definitely worth your time.