Friday, September 10, 2010

Dierks Bentley, "Draw Me a Map"

Apparently, country radio didn't particularly care to hear about "how we live up on the ridge."  That was suggested by the fact that "Up On the Ridge," stalled at #21 on the Billboard country chart, which is the weakest chart showing of Dierks Bentley's career.

Can Dierks rebound with his new single?  It's hard to guess.  Releasing a song like "Draw Me a Map" to country radio can be a risky move for a bona fide hitmaker who is in the prime of his commercial career.  Sadly, this is an era in which great songs are often dismissed by radio gatekeepers simply because they are too country for pop-oriented country radio.  "Draw Me a Map" is backed by a stripped-down acoustic arrangment that runs a significant risk of being deemed "too country."

But despite the fact that it might not be what radio is expecting, the arrangement is a pleasure to hear.  The simplified instrumentation allows us to hear the rich background vocals of Alison Krauss.  Though she supplied vocals on "Up On the Ridge" as well, she was unfortunately drowned out by layers of production.  The prominent sounds of the fiddle and dobro sound beautiful, but they do not get in the way of the vocals and lyrics.

While the lyrics do not inspire any deep thoughts, they too tell a story in a simple and straightforward manner.  In a plea for reconciliation, Dierks begs his lover to figuratively "draw me a map that leads me back to you."  There are no bland throwaway lines, nor any over-used cliches, which would result in an instant loss of points on this blog.  Dierks' vocal delivery tells a story in its own right.  You can hear the desperation in his voice, as he seems to wonder if it is too late too make amends, and if the troubled relationship cannot be salvaged.

While there are plenty of things to like about this single, perhaps its greatest quality is the artistic edge behind it.  He may have been playing it safe with his previous single, but Dierks is now challenging country radio programmers to play something drastically different from the usual mediocrity.  "Draw Me a Map" could be a big step toward making country radio interesting again, and it could blaze a trail for other artists to take similar risks.  Here's hoping that more country stars will follow this "Map"!

(Scores are given on a scale of 1 to 10)