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Album Review

Dierks Bentley, 'Feel That Fire'

February 2, 2009
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Country
Dierks Bentley Feel That Fire
Capitol
ESSENTIAL "I Wanna Make You Close Your Eyes"

Dierks Bentley is a rarity in contemporary country music: a true singer-songwriter who puts the emphasis on the second half of that description but still manages to be a huge mainstream success. On his fourth album, the Arizona-born artist continues to impress on one well-written song after another. Bentley and his co-writers have a flair for avoiding cliche and revealing endearing depths of sensitivity that never undermine the musician's essential ruggedness. On the boldly intimate "I Wanna Make You Close Your Eyes" - as sexy and romantic a song about commitment and a sense of home as you'll hear this year - and the gentle "Pray," Bentley displays great grace. But he also continues to underwhelm with his squeaky-clean production choices and unblemished vocal approach. The urgent, revved-up guitars and restless lyrics of "Life on the Run" are meant to convey outlaw desperation, but the sparkly mix and Bentley's grit-free vocals keep drawing the song from the road back to the studio. This issue is thrown into stark relief when Patty Griffin shows up to put her distinctive vocal stamp on the lovely waltz-time affirmation "Beautiful World." Bentley has surely got the feelings part of writing down to a T; now he needs to throw in a little more fire. (Out tomorrow)

SARAH RODMAN

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