Dierks Bentley — “Home”
Patriotic country songs are a bit of a double-edged sword. While no song is an automatic license to print money, a rah-rah, pro-U.S. anthem is pretty close. Just release a single with “America” in the title, and watch it soar up the charts. Get really lucky, and it may become a staple of July 4th fireworks displays and parades. Imply that the South is somehow better than the North, and it may even get added to the Stone Mountain laser light show for all eternity.
On the other hand, way too many lazily written patriotic songs have gone on to become hits – looking at you, Toby Keith and Rodney Atkins. Much like the “I’m proud to be rural” songs, too many patriotic songs are just piles of images and catchphrases stuck together to the point that they lose all significance. Admittedly, it’s tough to condense the essence of a country with a long history and a diverse culture into a three-minute song. But can the songwriters of America come up with more than just flags, eagles, fallen soldiers and freedom? And no, Bocephus, adding guns and the phrase “don’t tread on me” to the list is not an improvement.
So when a song like “Home” by Dierks Bentley comes around, it deserves credit both for what it doesn’t do and what it does do. It doesn’t rely on the cliches so common in patriotic songs. It doesn’t take a “we Americans are better than you” attitude. Bentley and co-writers Brett Beavers and Dan Wilson instead write about the country’s diversity, the bravery of the first colonists who came across an ocean to live here and the blood that was shed to preserve the country. Placed in this historical context, a reference to dead soldiers becomes something meaningful and emotional and not just another item on a patriotic checklist. More than anything, “Home” sounds like a love song for an old married couple – the past hasn’t been perfect, the future is uncertain, but “this is still the place that we all call home.”
The song builds and builds from its largely acoustic intro, to the point that the climax includes both ringing bells and a U2-esque guitar solo. It’s a far cry from the bluegrass sounds of Bentley’s previous album, Up on the Ridge, but the strong songwriting skills Bentley has displayed throughout his career are plainly evident. It remains to be seen exactly where Bentley’s post-Ridge sound will take him, but he remains one of country music’s most intriguing performers.
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